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Mobile Can-Spam Act Sought In Senate

A recently introduced bill would expand the law to include SMS messages, but it's unclear if it could really reduce mobile spam.

Two U.S. senators have introduced a bill that could cut down on unsolicited spam messages sent to cell phones.

Sens. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, and Bill Nelson, D-Fla., want to tackle mobile spam and are seeking to update the federal Can-Spam law to include messages sent to cell phones. Called the m-Spam Act, the bill would enable the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commission to go after mobile spammers and intervene in the transmission of SMS spam. The bill also would ensure that marketers could not send messages to any cell phone number in the national Do Not Call Registry.

"Mobile spam invades both a consumer's cell phone and monthly bill," Snowe said in a statement. "This significant and looming threat must be addressed in order to protect consumers and vital wireless services."

According to data from Ferris Research, the number of spam text messages increased by 38% from 2006 to 2007. This means about 1.1 billion messages, or about 0.3% of all SMS messages, were unsolicited spam. While current laws already make it illegal to use auto-dialing techniques for wireless phones, text messages aren't yet covered and could become a larger target as SMS consumption increases at a rapid pace.

Unlike most European customers who only pay for sending texts, these spam texts can quickly become costly for U.S. subscribers. Additionally, unsolicited SMS messages could potentially compromise a handset's security.

If the bill becomes a law, it's unclear how big of an impact it would have. The Can-Spam law was passed about five years ago, but overall spam has increased from about 60% of all e-mail in 2003 to more than 90% of e-mail today.

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