Wednesday, December 21, 2005

A Solution to Spam

The Federal Trade Commission said on Tuesday that the CAN-SPAM Act has worked, and was effective in protecting consumers from unsolicited e-mail. The agency publicly released a report at a press conference in Washington that studied the effectiveness of the law.

It’s hardly surprising that a governmental agency would public declare victory over spam while email administrators are drowning in a deluge of unwanted email. Total spam has increased steadily over the last year.

That looks like a 50% increase in spam rates – how does that get defined as success?

Some believe the law needs to be tightened, and that consumers should opt-in to receive commercial e-mail rather than the current opt-out process. Others claim that the only groups that are concerned with compliance are those that actually are legitimate bulk e-mail companies, rather than the spammers themselves.

I will guarantee – for any monetary amount that you would like to wager – that such a system would do absolutely nothing to stem the flow of spam. The vast amount of unsolicited email doesn’t even comply with the existing laws; why would making those laws stricter accomplish anything beyond hampering the business of legitimate companies?

The FTC maintains that the law does not need to be changed

At least they can get something right.

Brief Aside: The SPAM-CAN Act is generally a waste of tax payer dollars, going after a handful of lowlifes every once in awhile is akin to intercepting 4000 pounds of cocaine at the border and throwing the courier in jail - you have done nothing to solve the source of the problem (in this case a healthy demand for drugs and a large monetary incentive to provide it for them). For drugs the answer is easy – end the prohibition so that costs will come down and suppliers will have to go legit.

Spam isn’t quite so easy because the “customers” aren’t asking for the service. The only true answer is to make sending spam more expensive and technology such as SenderID and Computational Puzzle Validation are the beginning stages of that solution. Technology will eventually solve the problem; it just isn’t going to be the quick fix that the generally public is clamoring for. The public just needs to be convince that government cannot solve the problem. The only thing that government can do is make the cure worse than the disease.

HatTip: BetaNews

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