anti-spam laws 'will legalise spam'
By John Leyden, The Register
Proposed US legislation designed to clamp down on the spam is only
likely to make the problem far worse, according to a leading
Steve Linford, founder and director of the UK-based Spamhaus
Project, a non-profit organisation that tracks the activities of the
world's biggest spammers, warned that legislation currently going
through congress would lend legitimacy to bulk mailing.
"The legislation Congress is considering would legalise opt-out
spamming," Linford argued. "All the US spammers we track support the
Bill because it means they wouldn't have to hide any more."
"If the US passes an opt-out law, which I believe is likely to
happen by the start of next year, the spam problem would explode.
Providing they don't use deceptive subject lines any one of 23
million small US business could begin spamming," he added.
E-marketeers need to seek permission of consumers before they send
out commercial emails if the opt-in approach is followed. By
contrast, under an opt-out approach a person would have to ask to be
removed from a particular mailing list. The latter (far less strict)
approach is favoured by the Direct Marketing Association and many of
the most prolific bulk mailers currently in operation.
Spamhaus estimates around 200 individuals, most of whom are
US-based, are responsible for around 90 percent of world's spam
messages (or at least nine in 10 of those who can be traced,
anyway). Several are based in Boca Raton, Florida, which has earned
the unenviable reputation at the world's spam capitol.
Many of these spammers have "criminal records as long as your arm,
and no intention to stop spamming whatever the law says", according
However if legislators pass laws to "ban spam" then the problem can
be driven underground and reduced to a level where technology can
bring the spam nuisance down to manageable levels, Linford argues.
Linford made his comments at the Spam Summit, hosted by the All
Party Internet Group at Westminster today, which debated the growing
menace of spam email.
James Halpert, partner at US attorneys Piper Marbury Rudnick &
Wolfe, and a specialist in e-commerce and privacy, disputed
Linford's analysis on the effect of proposed US legislation.
Consumer activisists aren't going to get the right to sue spammers
or the opt-in lists they want, but this doesn't mean the proposed US
legislation will make matters worse, he said.
According to Halpert, the majority of the spam problem comes from
fraudulent spammers attempting to hide their identity in a "cat and
mouse" game with ISPs and "hacker criminals" using open proxies to
spew out torrents of junk mail. Clamping down on these kinds of
abuse - through enforcement of upcoming anti-spam Bills - will help
deal with spamming, Halpert argues.
Both Halpert and Linford, along with other speakers, agreed that a
combination of technical and legal measures is needed to keep the
spam problem down to manageable levels. ®