Uncritical of spam

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TVB's Money Magazine just had the most uncritical piece on unsolicited electronic messaging I've seen since the last time I listened to a spammer.

There was some token mentioning of how excessive spam can cause a waste of time and loss of messages, but the entire body of the piece was from the point of view of the direct marketers, claiming that any legislation on unsolicited commercial messaging would affect their businesses and how people really want to be sold to at home anyway. And one gem: "Some people want to receive offers about holidays".

Yes, legislation and do-not-call lists will have a negative impact on telemarketers, spammers, robotic telephone calls and other intrusive selling practices. That's the whole point! That business model is intrusive and invasive and nobody wants it.

No, "opt out" is not a good model for unsolicited commercial emails, because the damage to the recipient is multiplied: First, she gets the spam, then she has to jump though the unsubscribe hoops, causing at least one more email to be sent. (And, incidentally, confirming to the spammer that a real live person reads that email address, so the spammer will then be able to sell a list of confirmed active addresses to another spammer, thus increasing our hapless victim's spam load.)

(*Never* click on the unsubscribe option on a spam. All it does is confirm your address. Just delete it. I used to recommend reporting them, but the few ISPs who still allow spammers are little more than criminal scum these days, and will happily pass your details on to the spammer.)

"Opt In" is where someone elects to receive commercial emails. If you're on a mailing list,or you've subscribed to updates from websites, you'll be familiar with this. It's the only proper and ethical way to do email marketing: compile a list of people who are interested in your product, and who have said they wish to receive information about it. It's also more efficient marketing as it's going to be far easier to sell to someone like that than to someone who's not interested in your stuff.

Spam is theft. Theft of time, theft of resources and theft of goodwill.

Theft of time: the recipient must spend time to delete or report spam mails received.

Theft of resources: the emails or calls use bandwidth on the network and take up disk space as well and incurring extra computer resources to process. For automated phone calls, they can come to you when you're overseas and you get hit with roaming charges for unwanted calls. (When I'm in Australia, my phone bill doubles mainly due to automatic calls like that.)

Theft of goodwill. After having your inbox flooded with offers for pump'n'dump stocks, rolex watches and pharmaceuticals (viagra, cialis, etc), are you going to consider actual buying one?

Spam is theft, spammers are thieves.


Richard said:

Couldn't agree more. I didn't catch the programme in question, which is lucky because I'd probably have bitten my biro in half.

The spam problem in HK is particularly irritating because of all the local companies that randomly harvest e-mail addresses.

A couple of years ago I placed a situations vacant advert in "Recruit", because I needed a new office administrator. (The old one was broken.) In the advertisement, I naively used my general work e-mail address. Big mistake - practically every bloody company in HK seems to scour the class ified ads, harvesting the e-mails and barraging you with advertisements for things you don't want. Or in my case, things I don't know if I want or not, as all the spams are in Chinese.

Complaining to the various ISPs in HK who host the e-mail accounts used by these spammers and the web sites that they are spamming has no effec t at all. Why should the ISP get rid of a perfectly good paying customer?

Moreover, the proposed anti-spam legislation that's on the boil right now is fairly flawed in all sorts of interesting ways. I might do a write -up about that on my blog.

Death to spammers!

Spike said:

Just doing a bit of checking and your RSS feeds aren't working. If I click on the "syndicate this site" link, the latest article that shows up there (or in my reader) is over a month old. Thought you might wanna know.

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This page contains a single entry by dave published on November 21, 2006 8:17 PM.

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