Are Australians deleting more than spam? Could be, according to data from LEGATO Systems, Inc. indicating that 80 percent of companies that use or accept e-mail for financial transactions — such as orders, confirmations and pricing — delete their e-mails within a month, with 42 percent deleting daily, and 50 percent of the respondents say they print out less than 5 percent of their e-mails, so often no record is kept.

The missing e-mails could cause legal problems as Dr. Adrian McCullagh, solicitor in the Corporate and Technology group at Freehills, an Australian law firm, commented, "While there is no general provision dealing with retention of e-mails in Australia, the Corporations Law requires financial documents to be retained for five years and Government departments, under the Archive Act, need to retain e-mails for seven years. Clearly these results show that companies and their directors are at risk of prosecution."

The data, culled from a survey of 240 Australian professional organizations, found that 79 percent report they have an e-mail protection system set up, yet 48 percent have lost e-mails due to technology failure; 18 percent have been in a dispute with a customer over e-mails; and 48 percent have experienced interruption and dollar loss due to e-mail unavailability.

Are overwhelmed inboxes to blame for mishandled e-mail? The LEGATO survey found that 45 percent of respondents experienced a 100 percent increase in spam in the last year, with more than one-quarter (26 percent) receiving 51 to 100 e-mails per day, and 8 percent saying they get 101 to 150 e-mails per day.

Furthermore, tests conducted by the Coalition Against Unsolicited Bulk E-mail, Australia (CAUBE) in 1999 and 2001 designed to measure the amount of spam that Web-posted e-mail addresses received, revealed significant increases.

Of the 41 e-mail addresses involved in the 1999 test, an average of 76 unsolicited messages were received per address as of May 2002. Sixty-eight e-mail addresses were measured in the 2001 survey, revealing an average of 82 pieces of spam at each address as of May 2002.

Evidence that spam is a growing global issue comes from a December 2002 survey of 1,000 Symantec Corp. customers revealing that 37 percent of respondents received more than 100 spam e-mails each week at home and work, with 63 percent receiving more than 50 spam messages weekly. Also, e-mail security services provider, Postini, found a 150 percent increase in spam among the 9 billion e-mail messages it processed in 2002, and this daily statistic doesn't bode well for the new year — 64.3 percent of the messages processed on January 13, 2003 were spam.