FTC: Consumers Receiving Less Spam

Article excerpt

Technological anti-spam advances, together with enforcement of the CAN-SPAM Act, have reduced the amount of spam reaching consumer inboxes, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

In a report to Congress, "Effectiveness and Enforcement of the CANSPAM Act," the ETC concludes that the act is effective in providing protection for consumers and that it is being enforced aggressively by state and federal law enforcement and the private sector. The FTC has brought 21 cases under CAN-SPAM and 62 cases targeting spam before the enactment of the law.

In December 2005, the commission, along with U.S. attorneys, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Canadian consumer protection officials, and three state attorneys general announced a law enforcement initiative targeting spammers.

The FTC targeted three operations, the Canadian Competition Bureau settled two cases, and the attorneys general of Florida, North Carolina, and Texas filed complaints seeking to block the illegal spamming of three more operations. U.S. federal criminal authorities have executed search warrants as part of this initiative.

The FTC targeted operators who allegedly violated the CAN-SPAM Act by sending junk e-mail with false "from" information and misleading subject lines, and by failing to provide an "opt-out" option or a physical address. Documents filed in court detail how the spammers hijacked consumers' computers and turned them into spamming machines that relayed the illegal spam while concealing the real sender. This practice obscures the original source of the message so spammers can avoid detection.

According to the FTC, the CANSPAM Act would be more effective if:

* Congress enacts the "US SAFE WEB Act" to improve the FTC's ability to trace spammers and sellers who operate outside the United States

* Education efforts to ensure that consumers are aware of the ways to protect themselves from spam, spyware, and sexually explicit material continue

* Anti-spam technology - particularly, tools that prevent spammers from operating anonymously continues to improve

According to another FTC study, "E-mail Address Harvesting and the Effectiveness of Anti-Spam Filters," spammers continue to harvest e-mail addresses from public areas of the Internet, but ISPs' anti-spam technologies can block the vast majority of spam sent to e-mail addresses. …