Sponsored by: This story appeared on Network World Fusion at http://www.nwfusion.com/columnists/2002/0527bradner.html 'Net Insider: A model of the frustration By Scott Bradner Network World, 05/27/02 New York now fines telemarketers $5,000 per call if they ring someone whom has put his phone number on the state-maintained do-not-call list. The state, which raised the fine from $2,000 a few weeks ago, wants to send a message to would-be messengers. But in the grand scheme of things, telemarketers who call during dinner are a small problem compared with what individuals and corporations are and will be facing when dealing with the e-mail equivalent. The telemarketing industry maintains that it is providing a service of use to the public. At least some of the public seems to disagree. The Boston Globe reports that one-quarter of New York households have put their phone numbers on the state do-not-call list, 40% have done the same in Missouri and 35% in Tennessee. There is a national do-not-call list that is maintained by the Direct Marketing Association (DMA). The fact that they require people to use postal mail or pay a $5 fee for the online registration shows clearly that the industry does not actually want people to take advantage of the list. The DMA also maintains a do-not-send-spam list where registration is free. But the group seems to think that you will miss strangers sending you ads for things that we cannot mention in a polite magazine, so the registration is only good for two years. It's also far from clear how many of the spam artists are members of the DMA. I expect those folks in Nigeria that have upper case-only terminals and want to send you millions of dollars if only you send them a few dollars to start the process are not DMA members. Nor, I expect, are most of the other spammers. Spam is getting to be a serious burden on many Internet users. I'm up to more than 100 spam messages on an average weekday. Dealing with them takes time, even if I can automatically discard the majority of them using procmail, which comes as a part of the Mac OSX distribution. Companies are spending more and more effort trying to reduce the amount of spam that gets into corporate e-mail servers in a vain effort to reduce the time wasted while employees read, then delete the junk mail and to reduce the disk space needed to store it until the employee gets around to dealing with it. The tools are getting better, but they're not perfect and some of the tens to hundreds of thousands of spam messages a big corporation gets in a day will get through. But the U.S. government seems paralyzed by the prospect of actually doing something about the problem. Having the Federal Communications Commission maintain an opt-out list, for which online subscription would be free, seems to be a minimum first step. Of course this should be tied to significant fines to the beneficiaries of the spam (not just the senders) for every message sent in violation of the list. But don't hold your breath. Disclaimer: Harvard has gotten used to things taking a long time, but this whine is my own. Related Links All contents copyright 1995-2002 Network World, Inc. http://www.nwfusion.com