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Would Do-Not-Spam List Benefit the Enterprise?

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The increased energy behind the consumer push to stop spam through federal legislation andthe equivalent of a do-not-call list could help businesses, which have been fighting thespam battle for years, according to industry analysts.

A study released this week shows what no one is surprised about: People hate spam. What someanalysts say is more surprising is that 79 percent of consumers want spam banned or limitedby law, according to a report from the ePrivacy Group and the Poneman Institute. And 74percent want a federal do-not-spam list, much like the do-not-call list that recently wentup, limiting telemarketing. Another 59 percent of consumers want spammers to be punished.

''The emailing public has been at the mercy of spammers for way too long,'' says SenatorCharles E. Schumer (D, N.Y.), who is pushing for a do-not-spam registery. ''My bill fightsspam on two fronts: It gives email users the ability to put their names on a list to stopgetting spammed and gives law enforcement the ability to go after those spammers who sendthis junk.''

The do-not-spam list would go beyond the individual consumer, and be an added weapon in theenterprise fight against spam, says Vincent Schiavone, president of the ePrivacy Group,which is based in Philadelphia.

''A lot of bulk mail is aimed at corporate networks,'' notes Schiavone. ''A company couldput it's domain name on the list. For the first time IBM.com could say no unsolicitedmarketing material. Any list should enable domain-wide opting out. For the enterprise, thisshould take care of a lot of spam.''

But not everyone is convinced that a do-not-spam list would actually work.

Schiavone explains that the list would affect legitimate U.S. companies that are in the'grey area' of spamming. They're real companies doing real business. But maybe they haven'tupdated their databases or they're not working with a strong opt-in and opt-out policy.Those companies would be the ones most likely to be pulled into line by a federal law or anenforceable do-not-spam list.

But that accounts for only a portion of spam.

What about all of those get rich quick, grow more hair, have better sex and pornographicemails? What about all the spam that comes from other fraudulent organizations from othercountries?

What would this list mean to them? Not much.

Haff says federal legislation is apt to be more effective.

''If a legitimate company sends out an email that wasn't requested, this law would affectthem,'' says Haff. ''Hopefully, it would make them reconsider their actions before the emailgoes out. But any law would have to be carefully crafted so it's not so stringent thatlegitimate companies are fighting it rather than welcoming it. Ford Motor Co. or UnitedAirlines are not the problem when it comes to spam. We should be able to agree on that.''

ePrivacy's Schiavone says solving the spam puzzle will take a combination of technology, federal legislation and industry policy.

''A combination of tools and laws is the only way to get a handle on it,'' says Schiavone, who promotes the idea of digital signatures on emails and other sender verifications. ''There is no trust or accountability in email... Corporate America is under more pressure from spam than the general public is. The cost of not solving the problem is huge.''

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