[June 16, 2004]
FTC: "Do-Not-Spam" Has Potential To Become "Do-Spam"
BY DAVID R. BUTCHER
Federal Trade Commission (news
alert) yesterday declined to endorse a national Do-Not-Spam registry
modeled after the emphatically popular June 2003 Do-Not-Call list, saying it
would only generate more unwanted e-mail using present technology.
Unscrupulous marketers according to the FTC would not simply ignore the list
but would treat it as a source of leads for solicitation.
e-mail spammer buys a list of e-mail addresses from a list broker who
compiles it by "harvesting" addresses from the Internet. If someone�s e-mail
address appears on a Web site in a newsgroup posting, in a chat room, or in
an online service's membership directory, it may find its way onto a spam
list. He or she then uses special software that can send up to millions of
e-mail messages to the addresses in one mouse-click.
report focused on three types of possible registries:
registry containing individual e-mail addresses
registry with the names of domains that did not wish to receive spam
registry of individual names that required all unsolicited commercial e-mail
to be sent via an independent third party that would deliver messages only
to those e-mail addresses not on the registry.
protection agency unanimously concluded that none of the three possible
models could be effectively enforced.
officials were vocally skeptical last year that the list rejected on Tuesday
would not work, the commission was obligated to consider the proposal under
a national anti-spam legislation called Can-Spam
alert) that was signed by Bush with administration support in December.
Despite the commission's report, the six-month-old national law requires the
FTC to lay out a procedure for how to create the e-mail registry.
worry of the FTC involves security/privacy risks. A registry of individual
e-mail addresses would likely result in registered addresses receiving more
spam because spammers would use such a registry as a directory of valid
e-mail addresses. Inevitably, it would become the national Do-Spam list. And
if children�s accounts are included on the registry, the commission said,
children likely receive the same types of offers as adults (e.g.
pharmaceutical products, online dating services, Viagra and porn Web site
links, etc.) because spammers currently have no way of knowing the ages of
the users of the particular e-mails. And if the spammers do become able to
identify children�s e-mail, then the Internet�s dangerous users, including
pedophiles, could put the children at more risk.
Congress of the powerlessness of the list, the FTC then proposed an adoption
of a system of new authentication technology which would make it more
difficult to cover the tracks of unwanted e-mails. Spammers are not as easy
to track down as for instance, telephone marketers. Hence, many spammers
don't care about adhering to the laws. Their confidence lies in that they
cannot be tracked down. Without the authentication according to the report,
any registry would be worthless because the spam would be unable to be
traced back to the original source. In not being able to track the path, and
therefore not finding the source because of frequently fraudulent e-mail
addresses and locations all over the world, neither law enforcement nor
Internet service providers� anti-spam filters occlude the unwanted e-mail.
the FTC, the aforementioned�and, as of yet, solely
theoretical�authentication system is the only way to eliminate or even
reduce the quantity of spam.
If the FTC
fails to develop a method, a federal advisory committee will take place to
determine if Internet providers could be required by the government to adopt
one. Presently, several leading technology companies� proposals are under
e-mail users, below are some simple notions to ponder in terms of what one
can do on his or her own part to protect from spam:
sell your address?
completely eliminate the use of your e-mail address in online service's
membership directories or in chat rooms, on Web sites or on newsgroup
Use a spam
filter, which many free e-mail services offer as a tool to filter out
potential spam or channel it into a bulk folder. However, spam filters
can also catch legitimate e-mail so users of spam filters often complain
they have to mine through the spam anyway to make sure nothing
legitimate was "filtered out.�
frequently in spam. So, be fastidious�suppress the inclination to check
e-mail that offers free anything, including loans, credit repair,
weight loss and, no matter how lonely you might feel, adult
If your inbox
contains spam, report it to the FTC, sending a copy of the unwanted or
deceptive messages to
firstname.lastname@example.org. The FTC uses the unsolicited e-mails stored in this
database to pursue law enforcement actions against people who send deceptive
David R. Butcher is the Assistant
Editor for TMC's Customer Inter@ction