Opting out of spam trickier than anticipated

Text message costs $35,000; This is a document, really it is

On the surface it sounds like a great idea - have a code of practice for spammers so you don't get spam if you don't want it. Simple, right? Sadly, no. But you knew that. Spam costs users around the world an estimated $21 billion a year and attempts to stop it seem caught by one simple problem - people in authority can't quite get their heads round the idea that junk mail is a problem. This isn't just getting something in your letterbox and chucking it straight in the bin. If you're working from home or on a dial-up or dollars-per-download connection you actually end up paying for spam. Worse, when you respond to an unsolicited email asking to be removed from the list all you're doing is confirming that the email address is live and valid and opening yourself up to more spam.

The Consumers Institute has come out in support of the Direct Marketing Association's code but has itself come under fire. Chief executive David Russell told me he can't understand why marketers would want to alienate their customers by spamming them if they don't want it. Good point, but of course the spammers' customers aren't the end users, they're the people they sell the lists to, and many of them are either ill-informed or just plain crazy.

The problem with the code of practice is one of emphasis. The DMA would have you believe that users will be able to click on a button on a website and opt out of any spam. Anti-spam activists would prefer that you have an opt-in mechanism and preferably a "double opt-in" where users would say yes to spam, then confirm it. The problem with opt-out lists is, they say, that it creates a list of email addresses that are active and that's exactly what the spammer wants.

Meanwhile, New Zealand is one of the few countries in the region without any form of anti-spam legislation. Spam haven anybody?

Institute maintains support for spam code - IDGNet

Anti-spam code attracts more flak - IDGNet

Web Users Lose Billions A Year From Junk E-mail - Nzoom

Doubts hang over code on spam e-mail - Stuff

Code of Practice

Text message costs $35,000

From the "oops, forgot to carry the 1" file, Vodafone has been told to pay $35,000 back to customers after an advertising campaign stated short message service (SMS) text messages cost only 20 cents. In fact, they cost 20.25 cents (18 cents plus GST) and the Commerce Commission pulled the cellular phone company up on it. The $35,000 is how much Vodafone made from text messaging in the three months of over-charging. That's over half a million calls a year and at 20 cents a call, that's around $112,000 in txt. Crikey. But wait, it gets better. Apparently this error only applies to messages sent from a post-pay cellphone and not pre-pay. Since the vast majority of text messaging is done by teenagers and they are mostly on pre-pay schemes, you can expect that dollar figure to be on the extremely low side.

I have text messaged for work once, sending back a quote from a conference in Australia, but the vast majority of my messages are less business-oriented. Any business users out there? I'd be keen to hear just how you text for work. Kudos, by the way, to Nzoom for being the only organisation willing to give the story headline the appropriate txt flavour.

Vodafone pays 4 txt blu - Nzoom

Vodafone refunds $35,000 - NZHerald

Vodafone forced to refund - Stuff

This is a document, really it is

The Court of Appeal has rejected a claim by convicted phone hacker (or phreaker as they're better known) that existing laws don't cover crimes such as phreaking or hacking. Borislav Misic was convicted of using a computer to make more than 88000 minutes worth of international calls, valued at between $85,000 and $166,000. He was sentenced in July 1999 to 12 months in prison suspended for two years. He appealed and his lawyer focused on whether the current law covered a piece of software or not. The appeal court judge ruled that under section 229A of the Crimes Act these items are classified as documents.

"Essentially, a document is a thing which provides evidence or information or serves as a record. The fact that developments in technology may improve the way in which evidence or information is provided or a record is kept does not change the fundamental purpose of that technology, nor a conceptual appreciation of that function," says the judge.

This is important. It means hackers and the like can be judged to have committed a crime even before the new Crimes Amendment Bill finishes its progress through parliament and becomes law. Current law has been shown up to have holes in it especially when it comes to technology and at least one fraud conviction has been quashed on appeal because technology had overtaken the law. Now we can happily say to government "we don't need your steenking law" and kick up more of a fuss about the exemptions for government security agencies in the new Crimes Bill.

Court rejects appeal by hacker - NZHerald

Legal definition on hacking case - NZHerald

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