>Speaker: Ray Everett-Church
>Topic: The Rising Tide of Spam
>Ray Everett-Church is an attorney and Chief Privacy Office with the
>Philadelphia based consulting firm ePrivacy Group. ePrivacy Group is an
>international privacy consulting, training and technology company that
>helps companies manage privacy issues in a positive and cost-effective
>Ray will discuss the impact of the increasing level of unsolicited
>commercial e-mail, referred to as spam, on the public and on
>businesses, including how people are targeted, why it's profitable
>to be in the spamming business, legislative attempts to minimize
>Spam, and other related topics.
Ray began his talk by defining spam. He explained that different people have different definitions of the word, and that the range of definitions is huge. Some people claim that spam is just Unsolicited Commercial Email (UCE), others that it is any unwanted stuff in your email box. Whatever the definition, there is consensus that a huge amount of it exists.
Part of the reason is that the stuff is so prevalent is that there is a lot of money to be made in the field. It turns out that if someone has a computer, then the costs associated with becoming a spammer amount to only a couple of hundred dollars. For that money they get the software and addresses to send out millions of copies of a message. Typically, they only need ten or twenty responses from that barrage for it to make economic sense. Because of the fact that there is money to be made, it looks like spammers are here to stay.
Spam costs everybody a lot of money. Spam in your mailbox steals time that it takes to identify and delete. The immense volume of the stuff causes large service providers to have to build an additional 30% to 50% more capacity to handle the stuff. For a company like Hotmail, Earthlink, or AOL, this is a huge expense. The problem is that spammers typically don't have many assets, and each victim is isolated enough from t he others that it is hard to build a good legal strategy for going after them.
On the legal front, AOL has had some successes against the larger spammers using trespassing laws. Ray stressed the value of the law that was written to combat junk faxes in the early 1990s. He said that many times spammers have been taken to civil court and fined $500 per violation through it, and it has shut some of them down.
Another way to go after spammers is to attack their accounts. Ray explained that it is fun to take matters into your own hands. What you do is trace back through the header information to find out who gave the spammer internet access, and then complain to them, which usually causes the guy's account to be killed. There are some spammers he has had killed multiple times, and that becomes fun in a soap opera kind of way. (For more info visit: http://combat.uxn.com/tracing.html )
In political and religious contexts, spam almost always backfires on the perpetrator. Ray explained that the successful strategy is based on getting permission and building relationships. Bill Jones was not the only politician to suffer loss of his website as a result of spamming, but he was probably the most prominent. Most people who spam the way he did near the end of the 2000 campaign tend to be much fringier participants in the political system.
For more info: http://web.greens.org/about/spamstuff.html