Affirmative Consent
August 27, 2018
An Email Marketing Glossary Entry

What is Affirmative Consent?

Affirmative consent refers to the knowing, mutual and voluntary agreement between two parties to proceed with an interaction. The term is mostly used in the context of sexual activity. In that context, the full definition of affirmative consent is as follow:

“Affirmative consent is a knowing, voluntary, and mutual decision among all participants to engage in sexual activity.  Consent can be given by words or actions, as long as those words or actions create clear permission regarding willingness to engage in the sexual activity. Silence or lack of resistance, in and of itself, does not demonstrate consent. The definition of consent does not vary based upon a participant's sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.”


In online marketing, the context changes significantly -- for reasons that should be obvious -- yet the spirit and essence of the definition above remain unchanged. Participants in a business exchange should be fully aware and informed, and the contract can be revoked at any time by either party. In other words, the following practices would void any contract based on affirmative consent:

  • tricking the user into singing the contract under false pretense
  • using default behaviors (such as a pre-checked consent box on a web form)
  • failing to provide an option to opt-out.
  • not specifying the type of activity or exchanges that the consent applies to

How to use Affirmative Consent in Email Marketing?

Most countries have laws that require an affirmative consent be present and verifiable in order for a business to subscribe a user, or email promotional material -- such as a newsletter or promotional content --  to their subscribers. This agreement is most often in the form of a check box, and that data is collected along with other information related to the subscription or agreement.

The Mailman

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