SPAM – Don’t We All Love It?

In last month’s newsletter, I made reference to that great online pleasure… Spam. In this issue, I will discuss what we have to look forward to, other than more pop-up windows. This year, the U.S. Congress will look at the issue of email spam. I’m in the midst of a 1 week trip. I logged on yesterday to check my email, and had to slog through 1010 ‘new’ Email. 950 were complete junk. Downloading via AOL – the only service provider I’ve been able to use everywhere I’ve been, it took 3 hours. Good thing most spam is less than 10k.

Fortunately, there have been some tremendous technology improvements in email software over the past year. The rise of better, more stable and powerful server side filters such as Brightmail are a boon for any email user, making it possible to block spam from all email transfers on a mail server. It also make it much easier for users, and system administrators to block spam. Client side filters, such as the ones you can set up on a rules bases are great, but they still require you download the email to automatically filter it to the Kill File. In my case, even though I have 250+ filters set up in my email program, I still had to download them all. Server side filters mean in future – we will be installing our own software shortly – I will only get the email I need.

Although freedom of speech is a valued principle, around the free world, privacy is too. It should be expected that the abuse on privacy rights that result from being bombarded by spam will serve to help overcome objections to email “blacklists” – lists of email servers and groups that spawn overwhelming amounts of spam. These blacklists will become freely available, and will allow system administrators to block all email from offending servers, unless the email is requested. While this may pose problems from legitimate emailers who happen to send mail from servers within the same IP or range, it will also cause service providers to be more careful as to who uses their services, and for what purpose. No service provider will want to field telephone calls from angry customers who cannot send mail to friends or family because their IP range has been affected.

While the government may or may not enact legislation, let us not forget that the House of Representatives has passed such legislation in the past, and that the legislation never made it to the Senate. Considering how many members of Congress are now affected by this daily bombardment of unwanted information, we should all assume that future legislation is more likely to succeed and be implemented.

In the meantime, more and more companies will go the same route as we have elected to pursue, and will implement server side spam controls. Business cannot afford to spend time and money inefficiently every day sorting through what is and is not acceptable. After all, the technology revolution is all about improving efficiency, not simply having some inefficiencies replaced by others.