Swain signals cooperation with Aussie spam moves

A report on the problem of spam out of Australia's National Office for the Information Economy may bring trans-Tasman cooperation on law concerning unsolicited bulk email.

A report on the problem of spam out of Australia’s National Office for the Information Economy may bring trans-Tasman cooperation on law concerning unsolicited bulk email.

The NOIE report has recommended an approach which “balances regulatory, self-regulatory, technical and consumer information elements”.

NOIE acknowledges the limitation of any new legislation, saying “per se [this] is not a comprehensive answer to the problem because of the difficulties in identifying spammers, lack of jurisdiction over offshore offenders and competing priorities faced by law enforcement and regulatory agencies”.

Nevertheless, it says legislation should be seen as an important component which complements and reinforces other elements of a comprehensive response to the problem of spam.

National law aids international cooperation, it says.

“The global nature of spam requires any Australian spam reduction strategy to be supplemented by cooperation with other countries at both the policy and operational levels,” the report says.

New Zealand’s government has previously rejected a legislative answer to spam, primarily because of the difficulty of defining what spam is, and because of its global reach. New Zealand representatives are, however, said to be “actively working” with international bodies to improve at least the chance of detecting the sources of spam, alongside their work to mitigate other abuses of the internet, according to IT minister Paul Swain (see Swain promises more for spammers).

Asked to comment on the NOIE report, Swain says, in a written statement, that he is paying close attention to developments overseas and understands Australia has plans to introduce anti-spam legislation.

“I have asked officials to contact their Australian counterparts to see if similar legislation could be applicable to New Zealand. It is likely that effective anti-spam actions will require a mixture of approaches — technical (eg filtering), educational, as well as some regulatory measures."

Swain says that by far the greatest proportion of spam originates from outside New Zealand so international cooperation is essential.

"The New Zealand government is active with international groups such as the ITU and the OECD as well as looking at what is happening with other countries. However, the degree to which the government can be effective in fighting spam is limited and industry self-regulation is an essential element in any anti-spam strategy.”

NOIE suggests Australia should work with the OECD, APEC and other relevant multilateral bodies, and bilaterally where appropriate, to develop international guidelines and cooperative mechanisms which:

(a) aim to reduce the total volume of spam.

(b) apply the opt-in principle [no commercial email that the recipient has not volunteered to receive] where practicable.

(c) minimise false or misleading subject lines and header information.

(d) provide end users with information on anti-spam measures.

Australian government agencies should work with partner country agencies to counter spam within appropriate legislative mandates, it adds. The International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network, in which Australia participates through the ACCC, “is one model for such cooperation”. New Zealand also participates in this body.

The NOIE report analyses the content of spam (defined as “unsolicited messaging regardless of content” and embracing other media such as instant messaging and mobile communications as well as email) and some of the techniques used to facilitate its spread and to combat it.

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More about APECAustralian Competition and Consumer CommissionITUNational Office for the Information EconomyNOIEOECD

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