Of course, the rise of spam
traffic on the Internet has not gone unnoticed by Internet service providers.
Many ISP's have instituted some form of spam filtering technology between their
customers and the Internet to delete the most obvious forms of spam. These
measures are of varying effectiveness, but do help reduce some of the background
noise. It's advisable to check up with your ISP to see if they have some form of
spam filter working.
In addition, many home
Internet Service providers include provisions against sending spam as part of
their fair-use agreements for the service. Of course, this is at the discretion
of the company, but it is in the interests of a home service provider not to
have its members bombarding each other with spam.
Because of this, whole
companies are in the business of supplying email services to would-be spam
merchants. They provide the Internet access and email servers and the spammer
provides the content.
idea of a national do-not-spam list has been proposed in the United States, but
has never really gotten off the ground. This is mainly
due to a host of reservations as to how it will
affect legitimate online businesses, and the (probably very real) fear that a
national list of valid email addresses will simply attract more spam. The
latter point illustrates the main problem with legal action vs. spam email
The required operating costs are so low for sending
out spam that the people who do it are under no real pressure to operate their
businesses legally. This is different from the spammer's closest analog,
telemarketing companies. While equally annoying, they need employees and
expensive phone lines and equipment to function, meaning they must run a (at
least semi-) legitimate business and a national do-not-call list would be
effective. No such insurance exits with spammers, and a national do-not-spam
list would almost certainly be abused.
How did you get on
a spammers mailing list?
Most commercial spam emails
are sent using huge lists of email addresses, bought or otherwise acquired by
the spammers. It's important to remember that your email address (at least your
main one) is a commodity on the Internet. This is why so many sites (especially
those offering free services such as software downloads or contests) want your
email address. If they have your address they can contact you later, and unless
they specifically state that they will not, they can also pass the address on so
that others can contact you. In the past, many online businesses have sold their
customer lists to raise money or during the process of bankruptcy. If you are
prompted for an email address and it does not specifically state that your
address will not be used for marketing purposes, be wary. You might well become
added to a spammers list.
Of course, there are other
ways that commercial spammers can harvest your email address. Automated software
tools that search through web pages and record any email addresses that they
come across are one method, and equivalent tools are also used to pore through
newsgroups in search of useable addresses. For this reason, it is advisable not
to display your email address when posting within forums.
One of the most common methods, used by many commercial sites and
services on the web is the 'opt-in' box, as first seen in those
annoying magazine pullout subscription flyers ('YES!! Please sign me up to receive 12 issues
of pet taxidermy monthly and send me my free Elvis bust!').
In the Internet age, these take the form of the ubiquitous set of
check boxes at the bottom of the sign up page, pre-checked for you of course,
and offering "relevant information from time to time," "great offers from our partners,"
etc. etc. It all adds up to the potential for unsolicited spam if the
vendor is unscrupulous and you are careless with your email address.