Magazine article Security Management

Antispam Legislation and the Constitution. (Tech Talk)

Magazine article Security Management

Antispam Legislation and the Constitution. (Tech Talk)

Article excerpt

A new California bill that would prohibit a person or company from sending spam from California or to a California e-mail address has not been welcomed by some high-tech professionals. Opposition to the bill has come from the American Electronics Association (AeA), a high-tech trade group. Roxanne Gould, AeA's vice president of public and legislative affairs, says the group opposes the bill in its current form in part because legitimate business correspondence may be defined as spam. Specifically, Gould says, any e-mail not sent in furtherance of a preexisting business relationship may be considered spam "because the definition of preexisting relationship is far too narrow.

The problem, says Gould, is that the bill "basically says that if within three years you haven't bought something from me or communicated with me, we no longer have a relationship." This, she says, doesn't take into account that technology companies may wish to notify past customers about warranty issues or give them new information about computers or software. She says the AeA is working with Senator Debra Bowen (D-Redondo Beach), who introduced S.B. 12, to fine tune this language and to discuss reasonable penalties for inadvertent violations.

As currently drafted, S.B. 12 would allow recipients of unsolicited commercial e-mail advertisements to recover actual damages or $500 per violation in addition to attorney's fees; it also mandates that violators pay $250 to the High Technology Theft Apprehension and Prosecution Program Trust Fund (which is used to fund programs that assist local and state law enforcement in investigating and prosecuting high-tech crimes). The bill would affect companies that do business in the state, even if they are based elsewhere, because they would be covered under the state's "long-arm" statute.

The proposal is aimed at spammers who use dictionary attacks--that is, special software that creates millions of random word combinations used to test for working e-mail addresses--or "spiders" that search the Web for email addresses, according to a member of Bowen's staff It is not intended to prevent business practices by legitimate marketers who use lists of e-mail addresses arranged geographically. These companies should find it easy to comply with this law, as should companies that send e-mail to existing customers, says the staffer. …

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