Session 10

Spam and Other Unsolicited Communication (Presentations)


Environment, Technology, and Society

Comments from Presentation

How do we get spam? Any time we make our e-mail addresses available to the world, we open the door to spam...

How can we avoid spam?

Should there be laws against it? Well, spam is like other forms of unsolicited commercial communication. How do we treat them?

The cost of postal spam is borne almost exclusively by the sender. The financial cost of telemarketing is borne mostly by the sender -- what about cell phones? -- but the receiver bears annoyance cost. The cost of e-mail spam is borne almost exclusively by the receiver, especially when we consider the receiver's Internet service provider.

"But spam is stupid and we don't like it!" Is that a good enough reason to pass a law against an activity?

If we do pass laws, what do we outlaw? Commercial e-mail? Unsolicited commercial e-mail? All unsolicited e-mail?

How can we tell that a particular message is in the category we outlaw?

Maybe we could just require that a sender label all unsolicited e-mail as UNSOLICITED in the Subject: line? Then e-mail programs could filter this mail away from our in-boxes. That won't eliminate the network bandwidth costs of spam, but it will greatly reduce the amount of frustration that receivers face.

How do we enforce the laws, when the spam originates in Sweden or Barbados or China or ...

I told the story about the guy last week defending telemarketers on a CNN call-in show...

Technological solutions: white list, black list, known spam, "smart" filters...

Students Summaries

Eugene Wallingford ==== ==== October 7, 2003