Opinion » Cybernaut


The war on spam



Like the intriguing odour of the canned "delicacy" it is named after, Internet spam doesn’t appear to be going away any time soon.

Depending on your Internet provider and Internet activities, the spam situation is either holding steady or getting worse.

After dipping down to a manageable 10 spams a day in my Hotmail account, I’m up to around 40 unwanted, unsolicited messages – enough to completely fill my Inbox in about four days if left unchecked, and prevent the messages I want to receive from getting through.

People wonder why I still keep my Hotmail address if things have gotten this bad, and I don’t have a real answer for that. Right now it’s part sheer laziness – I don’t really want to take the time to transfer all my messages and addresses to a new account, something that would take all of 15 minutes – and part science experiment; my overflowing Inbox provides me with a unique insight and understanding of the Spam problem, as well as an idea of how well the Internet companies are doing in the battle against this scourge.

You would think that Microsoft would have a vested interest in stopping spam, which has become such an epidemic that U.S. Senators are warning that it is in danger of shutting down the Internet by effectively clogging all the networks, servers and transmission lines. Microsoft also produces a lot of the software on which spam is created, sent and received, and has its customers’ concerns to think about. In addition, through its formidable software and hardware, Microsoft provides a significant part of the backbone that allowed the Web to grow and thrive.

Still, if you want to get their advanced anti-spam protection services, you have to subscribe to MSN 8 Internet software at a cost of $125 a year – significantly more than the zero dollars a year I currently pay for my Hotmail account.

Of course, MSN 8 comes with a lot more than anti-spam software, like parental controls, virus protection, digital photo processing, a calendar, an e-mail manager, extra e-mail storage and capability, and tools for synchronizing your computer with your phone, PDA, and laptop.

Still, it’s a sizeable increase from zero, and I’m still waiting for a better deal.

Relief may finally be on the way with a new bill in the U.S. that would give the Federal Trade Commission more power to shut down companies for making misleading claims in spam e-mails or telemarketing calls. If the FTC discovers that companies or individuals are making false or unproven claims in their solicitations, and about two-thirds of them do, then the FTC can take legal action against them.

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