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Commentary
7/5/2001
07:23 AM
Fred Langa
Fred Langa
Commentary
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Langa Letter: Has Spam Won?

Don't let spam win! Take back your mailbox with these anti-spam tools.

Unsolicited commercial E-mail--spam--is a true evil, wasting huge amounts of time and bandwidth, and often delivering a direct assault on our privacy. Spam costs us all millions--perhaps billions--of dollars in lost productivity and wasted resources.

Despite all that, and aside from some routine grumbling, it seems that little meaningful, direct action is being taken to prevent or fight spam. Have we all been beaten into submission? Is spam now like the weather, something everyone complains about but no one does anything about?

If so, it's a shame, because there's lots you can do to fight spam at every level of the E-mail chain: at the mailbox, the Web site, and the dedicated mail server.

Six Steps To Reduce Spam
For example, I'm a member of CAUCE, the Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial Email. It's a worldwide organization with active affiliate branches in Europe, India, Australia, and Canada. Made up entirely of volunteers, the group works to fight spam through informational campaigns online and in mass media, and through legislative action. (The coalition has offered testimony before the U.S. Senate and the Federal Trade Commission.)

CAUCE also offers tools and techniques that can help in an immediate way. For example, the Spam Recycling Center has anti-spam tips, a link that lets you forward spam to the appropriate federal authorities, links to free spam-filtering services, a way to sign an anti-spam petition, and more.

Through its spam-forwarding links, CAUCE has collected more than 3 million examples of spam. With that many data points to draw on, the coalition has definitively identified the six most-effective ways to reduce the amount of spam you receive. Here's a summary of the group's tips, which you can read in full at http://www.spamrecycle.com/antispamthings.cfm.

  1. Never respond to spam. An opt-out message from you may do nothing except confirm that your address is valid, and thus invite more spam.
  2. Don't post your address on your Web site. Instead, use a special address that you can filter or change without affecting your real mailbox.
  3. Use a secondary E-mail address in newsgroups. Usenet newsgroups are prime territory for harvesting E-mail addresses. Using a throwaway account from a free E-mail provider for all Usenet postings can help keep your primary account spam-free.
  4. Don't give out your E-mail address without knowing how it will be used. Read the privacy statements on any Web site that asks for personal information!
  5. Never buy anything advertised in spam. If you reward spamming with your dollars, you're encouraging the very behavior you want to stop.
  6. Use a spam filter.

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