Lately there are a lot of news stories about various U.S. governmental and “industry” officials discussing the “problems” and “controversy” about spam and spyware. The impression given is that there are legitimate businesses doing reasonable things who will be harmed if spyware is made illegal or if attempts to regular spam are made. A typical quote will be something like “We want to make sure that companies with a legitimate need to contact their customers and market their products don’t suffer from the actions of a few bad apples”.
To me, this is curious. I receive a pretty good volume of spam, maybe 300 per day at my main address. Looking into my spam filter folder I see that almost all of the unsolicited commercial email I receive is in some way already a violation of law.
The main categories include
- Solicitations for illegal pornography. Almost all of the porn spam is for pornography that is specifically forbidden by law: acts involving minors, bestiality, or other activities almost universally prohibited in the United States.
- Offers to sell illegal prescription drugs, most of them Schedule III opiates. There is a lot of penis pill stuff, which is either illegal or gray area, but the ads for prescription pain killers are not legitimate in any way. These are what we call “drug dealers”.
- Fraud. There are lots of password phishing attempts, contests you’ve won that require a payment, 419 scams, illegal lotteries, and pyramid schemes. Most of these are well-known mail fraud scams now done via email.
- Loan-sharking. A tremendous number of “unsecured loan” offers with interest rates far above the legal limits.
- Fraudulent medications. “Herbal” remedies for everything from impotence to cancer, all of which are violations of law.
When you strip it down to the actual legal (if annoying) uses of spam, I’m left with a few pitches for coffee, collectibles, electronics, and other consumer products and a big load of mortgage ads. If my spam only consisted of this category I’d get maybe 40 a day.
So what’s the controversy or the problem? Only BOFH would complain if we got a few ads for Gevalia Coffee or miracle cleaners a day. It’d just be like the mail we get in the box that we throw away. The problem spam that chokes up the inbox and annoys is almost all completely illegal for reasons unrelated to email.
Who’s making money off all of this emetic porn, wire fraud, drug dealing, and loans at 35? Who’s hiding behind the respectable guys, hmm?