The CAN-SPAM bill examined
Posted Nov 26, 2003 15:21 UTC (Wed) by mmarsh
In reply to: The CAN-SPAM bill examined
Parent article: The CAN-SPAM bill examined
>The bill needed is not complicated. It is forbidden to send comercial
>email to a person unless this is either a) a current and ongoing customer
>of you or b) the person has given prior, informed consent to receiving such.
Unfortunately, as sound as this seems, I don't think it'll work in practice. I've been getting spam for years claiming (fraudulently) that I signed up to receive it. I get telemarketing calls like this, too, which usually begin with something like, "Hi. I'm responding to your request for information about our luxury dream time-share homes in prime swamp real estate." The other standard line is, "Either you or a friend or relative signed you up to receive this offer." You could add teeth to such a law by requiring companies to keep proof of consent for every email address (or phone number) on their list, but that still puts the burden on the victim to track down and file suit against each spammer.
There's another trick that further complicates matters. Not long after sign-up began for the U.S. "do not call" registry, random prize drawing or similar postcard-type offers started appearing. Entering the contest, or whatever the relevant gimmick was, also included granting permission to have your name and number sold to telemarketers. This was, of course, in the fine print that virtually nobody read, but it's still valid. Now just imagine what a spammer or address harvester could do with hidden form entries.
On the other hand, we can't and shouldn't ban true opt-in mailing lists, whether their aim is advertising or not. There are even some that aren't really opt-in but should be allowed, such as intra-organization mailing lists that serve administrative functions. It seems to me that there's really no way to craft a useful law that the spammers won't, in general, be able to get around and yet which still allows useful mailing lists. I think there really just needs to be more education of all these "entrepreneurs" who see mass-emailing as the greatest marketing tool in the world. The only other viable option is probably to assign some tangible cost to sending email. This brings up the whole morass of e-stamps and the like, or solving puzzles to "pay" for the transmission. Either one requires enough changes to infrastructure and clients that we'd be just as well off scrapping email as it exists today and building a new asynchronous message system.
Good gravy...that's a long way to say "Nah, it won't work."
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