FTC: Do Not Spam List Won't Work

The agency says that such a list won't stop spam and might actually increase it.
The Federal Trade Commission said Tuesday that a national Do Not E-Mail Registry is doomed to fail and, in a report to Congress, argues against the creation of such a list because it wouldn't stem the flow of spam.

"We find that a national Do Not E-Mail registry would be ineffective and burdensome for consumers," FTC chairman Timothy Muris said at a Washington news conference.

The report--as mandated by the Can-Spam Act of 2003--concludes that absent any means to authenticate messages, such a registry could not be enforced effectively, would not reduce spam, and might actually increase it.

The FTC observes that it would be largely powerless, without authentication, to stop spammers from misusing the registry. And it notes that such a list would present privacy problems. While a Do Not E-Mail list might keep marketers away from children, the report cautions that pedophiles could use it to target children.

To address the issue of authentication, the FTC said that it would be sponsoring a Fall 2004 Authentication Summit to discuss possible message- and sender-identification schemes and how they might be deployed.

The FTC is hoping an E-mail authentication standard will emerge from the private market. But should a clear leader fail to surface, the commission recommends convening a Federal Advisory Committee to determine a viable standard that could be federally mandated.

Microsoft and Yahoo have offered E-mail authentication proposals to the Internet Engineering Task Force, an open group of technical professionals concerned with the evolution and operation of the Internet.

Microsoft's Caller ID for E-mail, which was merged recently with SPF, another popular authentication scheme, focuses on eliminating domain spoofing by verifying the domain a message came from. Yahoo's DomainKeys focuses on verifying the header information within an E-mail message using cryptographic techniques. The two proposals are seen as complementary.

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