Some of the spam emails (classified as spam by Gmail) I receive have a link to unsubscribe.
Is it safe to click this or would you rather not to?
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It depends on the email and who it is addressed to. If the email is sent directly to my emailadres and I can clearly see this is legitime (eg, I shopped at a store before, and the spam is about that store), then yes, I use the unsubscribe link.
But if the email is not directly sent to me, then they likely got my email address through a database purchase, and the unsubscribe link is either a link to a virus or a confirmation that they know your email adress works.
I also always check if an email has more than one links. If all links including the unsubscribe link are exactly the same, this email is primarily used to install malware/viruses, so should not be clicked at all.
Most list article emails and vendor advertising have an unsubscribe button / link in the email and the email is normally not considered to be spam.
If Google correctly identifies spam then do not unsubscribe from it. Unsubscribing from spam just tells the spammer that you have a working email address and unsubscribing can lead to more spam.
Let spam in your spam folder go away and do not unsubscribe.
Whitelist emails that are not spam.
That way, you have a clear distinction.
Spam is in the eye of the beholder.
In the early days of the internet, spam was loosely defined as, "irrelevant or inappropriate messages sent on the internet to a large number of recipients."
More recently, a second definition has gained acceptance: "Marketing material that I don't want."
The distinction is important because the 2nd definition includes companies that might have good reason for sending you the message, but Google has identified the message as spam because some number of their users have hit the SPAM button (or because the sender added the flag "BULK EMAIL" to their own email).
If the email is from a company you recognize because you have dealt with them it's OK (and even polite) to hit the unsubscribe button. If the message is truly "irrelevant or inappropriate", it's best just to ignore the message entirely.