California Governor Gray Davis must be bucking for the Geek vote in the October 7th special election in which he could be recalled from office. Today he stood tough and signed an antispam law that prohibits anyone from sending unsolicted commmercial e-mail (UCE, aka spam) to a California e-mail address.
Requiring subscribers have opt-in (yes, opt-in, not opt-out) control over which junk mail they want to receive, the law will help prevent e-mail users from being bombarded with unwanted e-mail messages. Offenders are liable for damages up to $1 thousand for each message sent to an individual and up to a whopping $1 million for each advertisement campaign. The law grants the right to seek damages to the recipient, the state attorney general and the e-mail service provider.
The law has additional provisions that make it illegal to collect e-mail addresses for the purpose of sending spam.
Hoo-whee! This is the way to write an anti-spam law. Make just about everything about junk e-mail illegal. Way to go, Gray!
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California SB 186
The craziest thing that I’ve ever heard is to pay spammers not to spam, and that’s just what a startup company from San Antonio, Texas, Global Removal (GR), is planning to do. Their theory is that spammers are in business to make money, and that the lowbrows will remove your e-mail address from all of their junk mail lists for a buck.
In addition, subscribers (you and me) are required to pay a fin to be part of this crazy scam.
My B.S. radar is way overloaded after reading about GR’s plan to pay spammers one dollar for each e-mail address that subscribes to GR’s program (after being spammed in an effort to garner subscribers). Yes, you read that right.
Here’s the scoop as I read it from Global Removal’s website:
1. spammers seek to get people to subscribe to Global Removal’s “do not spam list” by sending the invitation as a spam message.
2. spammers are paid $1.00 for each address that subscribes to the “do not spam list.”
3. uninformed users give Global Removal their e-mail address and $5.00 to be added to the list.
4. spammers are to purge their list of all subscribers.
Am I the only one who sees a problem here?
I’ve got to start giving spammers more credit. They’re smarter than I thought.
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When I ask IT people what they see is the biggest problem on the net today, the most common response is spam. When I ask non-techies the same question, I always get the answer: spam.
There’s not much we can do at the moment to combat spam except install filtering software that keeps an eye out for common spam terms (I don’t want to list them here because there’s a good chance your filtering software will trash this newsletter).
There’s an alternative to e-mail filtering that’s being discussed when ISPs and other technical folk gather: challenge-response messaging. With this e-mail technology, senders will receive a challenge e-mail message the first time they send a message to an e-mail account that has enabled challenge-response security. If the sender appropriately responds to the challenge, the original message is then delivered to the recipient, and future messages sent to the same e-mail account will also be delivered.
This process verifies the sender’s return e-mail address and adds the address to the recipient’s white list, the tally of addresses from which e-mail messages may be received.
At first this sounds like a good idea; however, there are a few limitations to the system. The first is that challenge-response white lists may allow all e-mail from the sender’s domain to be delivered. If firstname.lastname@example.org responds appropriately to a challenge, then not only will his future messages be delivered but also email@example.com, and firstname.lastname@example.org.
The second problem I see is for e-zine (e-mail newsletter) publishers, including me. Challenges that are sent in response to the newsletter will result in the recipient’s being unsubscribed from the newsletter. Bounced e-zine messages are usually automatically removed from the subscriber list. This isn’t just a problem for publishers but also for readers who may not realize why they’re no longer receiving their newsletters after the challenge-response system has been installed by the corporate IT staffer.
And worst of all, the challenge-response system adds at least two additional e-mail messages traversing the net and corporate e-mail servers each time a new relationship is created.
Let’s solve the spam problem at it’s root by continuing to work through the legal system to stop spammers. In the mean time, do your part to make the spamming less enticing: don’t buy anything from spammers and don’t reply to their messages, you’re only confirming that they’ve reached a valid e-mail address.