LONDON (09/23/2003) - PC Advisor readers have lashed out at half-hearted U.K. government plans to crack down on spammers. It will be an offense for a British business to send unsolicited mail to personal email accounts after December 11, bringing existing laws in line with European legislation.
But with over half of our readers (52.6 percent) complaining that junk messages now account for more than 75 percent of all their email, the vast majority (74 percent) reckon the maximum £5,000 (US$8,246) fine isn't sufficient punishment for spammers, according to a recent poll on the PC Advisor website.
Meanwhile Member of Parliament (MP) Derek Wyatt, who along with e-envoy Andrew Pinder is hoping to persuade U.S. lawmakers to take a tough 'opt-in' approach to spam, is warning the internet will grind to a halt unless firm action is taken by American authorities.
'Opt-in' requires users to request a commercial email before it can be sent, as opposed to the 'opt-out' method, where the onus is put on individual users to let companies know that they do not wish to receive spam.
"Opt-out is a terrible, terrible mistake and if we can't come to an agreement on dealing with spam, I think the internet will seize up next year, not unlike the electricity blackouts in New York earlier this year," Wyatt told PC Advisor.
Wyatt is convinced that there has to be a concerted and coordinated worldwide effort to stop spam. "I think we need a new arrangement like what happened with telephones and stamps, where world bodies started to agree on global pricing," he said. "In terms of dealing with spam, we are in the spotty teenager stage but we will grow up and to do that. We need to discuss these issues in an international forum."
Wyatt and Pinder will be part of an APIG (All-Party Parliamentary Internet Group) delegation of MPs that will fly to Washington next month for meetings on Capitol Hill with Senators and other lawmakers. Analysts have also slammed Thursday's anti-spam directive claiming the law doesn't go far enough to protect businesses as well as individual email users.
According to Gartner analyst Anthony Allan, the market researcher's corporate clients have mostly taken a technical response to the problem of spam. "The bottom line is a company's email infrastructure has to cope with twice as much email than it needs to, so while they do believe that spam should be illegal and that spammers should be punished, legal measures are not seen as the most effective way to deal with the problem," he told PC Advisor.
Allan reckons the new law also poses the additional problem of tracking down and imposing fines on those sending spam from outside of the U.K., an endeavor made that much more difficult if the U.S. protects those same people with opt-out anti-spam laws.
"It is not clear how the enforcement of the law will work," Allan said. "There is a great deal of publicity around the fact that action is being taken and I believe there will be successful prosecutions this time next year. But the effectiveness of the law over the whole range of spammers and email users in the next year is going to be minimal."
PC Advisor says:
We are all responsible for our own destinies, and it's up to us to get on with the job of protecting ourselves from spam.
The golden rules are:
1. Do not respond to spam - no matter how tempting it is, or how angry you might be.
2. Do not send spam back (bounce it).
3. Do not allow yourself to be tempted to spam the spammer.
4. Do not visit porn sites.
5. Do not publish your email address on your website - make a mail to hyperlink out of some text, such as: 'Problems with the site? Email the webmaster.'
6. Get spam filtering software installed, or set yourself up with a spam filtering server like Spammarest.
7. Get a second email address, and use it for submissions to websites - keep your primary address for people you can trust.
8. Treat your email address as confidential and don't publish it anywhere, especially in a web forum where thousands of people can see it.