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Saturday, February 29, 2020

How to stop Spectrum junk mail

Kilkenny, IrelandPhoto by Robert Alexander/Getty Images

For years, I have been getting inundated with physical junk mail from my internet service provider (ISP), Charter Spectrum (formerly Time Warner Cable). In huge red capital letters, the envelopes are stamped “OPEN UPON RECEIPT” or “NOTICE” or “IMPORTANT ACCOUNT INFORMATION.”

I always open them, just in case there is a legitimate problem and my internet is about to be shut off. Every single time, I get duped. Instead of legitimate account notices, the mailers are ads trying to get me to upgrade my plan or buy more services from Spectrum. In addition to tree-killing paper mailers I can at least recycle, Spectrum often likes to mix in unrecyclable thick plastic cards.

It’s not like I can switch internet service providers to get away from the obnoxious mailers. My building isn’t wired for any other ISP, so I don’t have a choice if I want internet. According to an April 2018 report by the New York City Mayor’s Office, 69 percent of NYC households have only one or two options for broadband providers; as of 2016, at least 24 million Americans had no broadband provider at all. So like many of Spectrum’s 26 million US broadband internet subscribers, I thought I had to accept misleading junk mail as a cost of getting my internet.

I don’t know why @Ask_Spectrum offers paperless billing if they’re gonna send this much junk mail every 2 weeks anyways. pic.twitter.com/mWOnpRQKCA

— Uri Halevi (@uhalevi) November 18, 2019

But thanks to a tip from Verge reader KO, I found out you can opt out of Spectrum junk mail online and tell Spectrum not to call, email, or come knocking with sales offers. As a bonus, the privacy page where you opt out of spam also lets you easily opt out of letting Spectrum use your personal data to target ads to you. Spectrum does deserve some credit for this; Verizon Fios makes you call a 1-800 number, reread your contract for instructions, and then navigate two separate sections of your account preferences to achieve the same results.

Where to opt out of Spectrum junk mail

  • Opt out online here
  • Opt out by phone by calling 1-855-75-SPECTRUM

For the rest of the instructions, we will assume you’re filling out the online form; however, it’s probable you’ll go through a similar process if you call.

Spectrum Privacy Preferences

Information you will need to provide

  • Your first and last name
  • Your street address
  • Your phone number, if requesting Do Not Call
  • Your email address, if requesting Do Not Email

Opt out of Spectrum junk mail and sales calls

Spectrum Communication Preferences

You can opt out of receiving marketing and sales offers from Spectrum by phone, email, physical mail, and door-to-door sales. You will still receive actual account notifications about your service via these channels, even if you opt out of marketing.

  • First, identify yourself as a current customer and fill out all of the address fields
  • Now, check the four boxes for Do Not Call, Do Not Email, Do Not Mail, and Do Not Knock. For Do Not Call, you’ll need to provide a phone number or numbers. You can also add up to two additional addresses to your Do Not Mail and Do Not Knock requests.

None of these are immediate fixes. Spectrum says Do Not Email can take up to 10 days, Do Not Call can take up to 30 days, and Do Not Mail and Do Not Knock can take up to 60 days. I submitted my opt-out notice on February 26th, and I will update this post if I continue to receive mail after the 60-day mark.

Before you complete the CAPTCHA and submit, pause to expand the section called “Additional Privacy Preferences.” It should be at the bottom, right after the Do Not Knock section. If you don’t see it, go back to the top of the form and make sure you answered “Yes” to the question “Are you a current customer?”

Opt out of Spectrum using your data to target ads

Additional Privacy Preferences

In “Additional Privacy Preferences,” you can opt out of letting Spectrum use your personal information to customize ads for you. While Spectrum heavily disclaims that “Your personally identifiable information is not disclosed to the third-party advertisers... and we do not share your personally identifiable information with third parties for their own marketing or advertising purposes,” there have been reports of individual people being identified from “anonymous” data like browsing habits. So opting out here is a good idea if you care about your privacy.

(Side note: data sharing by your ISP to target ads would have been restricted or prohibited altogether by Federal Communications Commission internet privacy rules that Congress shut down in 2018. Alas.)

  • Check the box labeled “Do Not Use CPNI” to opt out of marketing based on your “customer proprietary network information” or “CPNI,” which sends you promotions based on the “quantity, technical configuration, type, destination, location, and amount of your use of the Spectrum telecommunications services, and information about your Spectrum phone service that is contained on your bill.”
  • Opt out of interest-based ads online where Spectrum targets you with custom ads on its sites as well as third-party sites and apps using personal information “such as your zip code, information about your current subscription, use of our products or services, or other demographic and generally available information.” This only impacts how the ads Spectrum serves are targeted, not online ads in general. If you move or get a new account, you’ll need to resubmit this request.
  • Opt out of interest-based ads on television and then on TV applications where some of the ads you see are targeted based on your location or other things Spectrum knows about you, such as “your use of our products or services or information that we receive from others.”

Note: all of these are opting out of how Spectrum acts on your personal data; you’re not opting out of Spectrum’s data collection altogether.

California only: opt out of Spectrum selling your data

If you identified yourself as a current customer and claimed your state as California at the top of the form, the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) means you’ll get an extra option called “Opt-Out of Sale of Personal Information (California Consumers Only),” and you can check that box as well.

The CCPA also means you can request that Spectrum send you all of your data or delete it from its systems. That involves filling out a separate form, which you can find here.

Confirm you’re not a robot and submit!

Spectrum submit

Now, all you have to do is complete the CAPTCHA, submit, and wait up to 60 days for all of your preferences to take effect.

Are you having similar problems with another ISP?

Let us know in the comments!

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