CAN-SPAM, No Relief in Sight

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I was invited to write an article on this subject by my hometown newspaper. I graduated in May ’03 and took a job in Paoli working for the ePrivacy Group. Below is an article on the CAN-SPAM act that was recently signed by Bush. Feel free to use it if you’re interested- Please email me if you do. Thanks for your time and consideration.

Kendall SchoenrockVillanova ’03 610-608-2788

CAN-SPAM, No Relief in SightBy Kendall SchoenrockMonday, January 12, 2004

Recently, the U.S. government has decided to join in the unwanted email fray with laws that are designed to suppress the flood of spam that clogs internet users’ inboxes. Those in the industry know the small impact this Act will cause in the fight against unwanted email. As businesses scramble to find ways to solve this problem, many believe that salvation lies in technology, not an act of legislation.

Some reports estimate that spam will cost U.S. businesses up to $10 billion a year, in terms of lost productivity and investing in ways of dealing with unwanted email. One of the serious problems with spam is that the cost of sending spam is mostly subsidized by the receiving party. This is also one of the reasons it is so profitable for a spammer to setup shop and start spewing email. Once an unsolicited message is sent, generally, it’s up to the receiving party to decide what to do with the email. This is like holding a concert, opening the gates, and then trying to kick out everyone that doesn’t have a ticket. You might catch some, but many will see the show for free.

Why will the Can-Spam Act do little to protect your inbox? A large percentage of the current illegal and deceptive spam comes from other countries. It will be amazingly difficult, if not impossible, to find and successfully punish international spammers. What’s then to stop the current U.S. based spammers from moving their operations off shore? Spammers could also completely ignore the laws altogether, or continue to spew spam that complies with the new restrictions.

This Act also allows every small business in America to send you one “legal” unsolicited email, as long as they follow the rules set forth in this bill. According to Ray Everett-Church, Chief Privacy Officer for the Philadelphia based anti-spam company ePrivacy Group, “Any legislation that permits all of America’s estimated 23 million small businesses to legally send everyone at least one email cannot be considered anti-spam. Can-Spam sets forth various do’s and don’ts for the spammer who aspires to be legitimate.”

As it appears that the government will do very little to truly fight the flood that is choking the usability of email, perhaps the best we can hope for in this situation is that the CAN-SPAM ACT doesn’t encourage the very problem it was trying to solve. I’m willing to bet that those who want to keep their inboxes clean will continue to look for more advanced technical means to rid their networks from this never ending stream of junk email.