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Ken Magill

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Vendor Spotlight: Email Industries' BlackBox

6/30/15
 
By Ken Magill
 
Through its product BlackBox, Email Industries aims to help email service providers identify spammy clients before they send, thereby preventing damage to their reputations those clients may inflict.
 
“BlackBox is an abuse-prevention product,” said Email Industries chief executive Scott Hardigree. “It’s used exclusively by ESPs, relays and marketing-automation providers.”
 
ESPs use BlackBox to monitor clients on an ongoing basis, he said.
 
The product consists of two parts, according to Hardigree. One is questionable data, which is a database of nearly every email address that is being bought and sold on the global market—about 185 million addresses.
 
Hardigree said he compiles BlackBox’s database on an ongoing basis by buying lists from sellers with whom he has long had contacts. These contacts are not any of the big, well-known data providers, he said.
 
“We get the people who are essentially distributors and middlemen,” he said. “They aren’t interested the integrity of the data-sales marketplace. They’re interested in cash.
 
“In my former life, I was in the data-sales world and was essentially a spam enabler in the early 2000s,” he added. “So I have these connections that go way back. Once I made the pivot and took off my gray hat and put on my white hat I said: ‘Maybe I’ve got some karmic debt to repay here. I have all these resources and I know I can get this data at way better rates than if an email service provider were to try to do it themselves. And I know who these distributors are.’”
 
According to Hardigree, in order for an address to be considered questionable, it must come from two different sources.
 
“That’s where we feel comfortable that these addresses are truly in circulation,” he said.
 
Hardigree said the questionable data file gets about 10 million new addresses per month.
 
According to Hardigree, ESPs match customer lists against BlackBox’s data to see how much overlap there is between client lists and BlackBox’s questionable data. 
 
Most do this for vetting new senders and monitoring existing senders, he said.
 
“Depending on the match rate, which is unique to each client, the ESP will manage the client in accordance of their business rules,” he wrote in an email to the Magill Report. “For example if the match rate is high, say 20 percent, the ESP may alert/educate the sender or reject/redirect the user. Conversely, if the match rate is low, they may automatically accept or expedite the vetting of a new sender.”
 
What is considered a high or low match rate varies widely by ESP, Hardigree said.
 
“It depends on how they manage their clients and, frankly, what types of clients they’ll accept,” he said. 
 
ESPs are known to vary significantly in how much sloppy emailing behavior they’ll tolerate from clients.
 
MailChimp, for example, has a reputation for extremely low tolerance for clients who spam.
 
The second part of BlackBox’s offering is a database of toxic addresses, mostly undeliverable addresses, but also addresses of ESP-verified, known complainers and litigators.
 
Interestingly, known spam complainers also reportedly tend to be very active openers and clickers, so removing them from a file isn’t always advisable.
 
“The known litigators, we’re very comfortable with,” said Hardigree. “The complainers, ie., screamers, have to be double verified [by at least two ESPs],” he said. “These are complainers from an ESP’s perspective. It’s double verified and it is small. Of 100s of millions of records, I think we have 100,000 complainers.”
 
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