EU anti-spam measures face uphill struggle

Thirteen European Union countries have agreed to boost cooperation to tackle unsolicited commercial email, aka junk email and spam.

The thirteen are Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Malta, The Netherlands, and Spain.

InfoWorld says that under an agreement announced by the European Commission yesterday, the countries’ antispam authorities have pledged to exchange information on email system abuses and to follow up on complaints about spammers operating on their territory from other countries.

The move is designed to tackle the problem where spammers operate outside the territory of the member state that has received a complaint about abusive email, InfoWorld says, and the national enforcement agency cannot act because it lacks legal powers to take action in another member state.

CipherTrust, an email security company, estimates that nearly 90 percent of all spam originates in the US and has cost European companies €85 billion over four years, according to a report in the EU Observer yesterday.

The Observer quotes EU Information Society and Media Commissioner Viviane Reding as saying, "In parallel, we are working on cooperation with third countries both bilaterally and in international fora like the OECD and the International Telecommunication Union". She also encouraged authorities from all other EU member states to join the agreement, the Observer said.

However, it’s difficult to see how any measures will produce any really successful outcomes.

A New York Times report (reg required) on 1 February says that the CAN-SPAM Act in the US has had little impact in stopping spammers in that country. Entitled Law Barring Junk E-Mail Allows a Flood Instead, the NYT’s article says there is more junk mail on the internet than ever, and highlights unsuccessful efforts to shut down one spammer that illustrate the difficulties in enforcing anti-spam laws.

The Times says that since the CAN-SPAM Act went into effect in January 2004, unsolicited junk email on the internet now totals 80 percent or more of all email sent, according to most measures. The paper says that’s up from 50 percent to 60 percent of all email before the law went into effect.

And it gets worse when you look at what some companies are doing, unwittingly or otherwise.

A report in The Register says that Spamhaus has slammed MCI for hosting a website selling spamming software that is allegedly integral to the illegal trade in compromised PCs. The site sells spamware called Send Safe which uses broadband-connected PCs infected by viruses such as SoBig to distribute junk email.

More than 70 per cent of spam comes from PCs infected with viruses or trojans, according to Spamhaus.

One thought on “EU anti-spam measures face uphill struggle

  1. Spam email… so what?

    According to a recent BBC News article the amount of email spam in circulation has balooned, and is on course to destroy the email system and Western society as we know it. Er, hold on guys. Its email. Data- on…

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