September 13, 2006 10:47 AM PDT
Microsoft wins record amount from spammer
- Related Stories
U.K. spammer gets two-month curfewAugust 23, 2006
Spim, splog on the riseJuly 6, 2006
Australia forces ISPs to attack spamMarch 29, 2006
Most spam still coming from the U.S.January 24, 2006
900,000 ISP customers blacklistedMay 10, 2005
Politicians form transatlantic spam allianceMarch 25, 2005
Spam-happy shoppers love stolen softwareDecember 10, 2004
Gates reveals his 'magic solution' to spamJanuary 26, 2004
U.K. law mashes spamSeptember 19, 2003
You've got spam, and more spamAugust 29, 2002
Paul Fox, whose e-mail messages were intended to direct traffic toward his pornographic download site, was this week forced by a court order to pay Microsoft 45,000 pounds, or $84,177, for breaching the terms and conditions of its free Hotmail service. Those terms explicitly prohibit the delivery of spam to its customers.
But while Microsoft has clearly won, the case highlights a failure in the British legal system to tackle spam. Despite efforts by the Information Commissioner's Office to gain power from the Department of Trade & Industry to deal with spam, Information Commissioner Richard Thomas remains hamstrung.
"He can do very little," Struan Robertson of law firm Pinsent Masons said. Because Thomas' office can only deal with spam originating in the United Kingdom, the actions it can take are limited, said Robertson, who believes there should be more serious deterrents in place.
"What should change is there should be a penalty where somebody is identified as sending spam--at the moment, if the information commissioner comes across somebody sending spam, all he can do is send a notice telling them to comply with the law," Robertson said. "If they continue, the worst that happens is they face a maximum fine of 5,000 pounds ($9,353), and that's not much of a deterrent."
While Microsoft could turn to its terms and conditions to prove illegality, individuals are still largely powerless to fight spam, Robertson said.
"If an individual wanted to take action, in a way, it's even more difficult, he said. Individuals "can only claim compensation for damage that has been caused, and it's difficult to show what the damage would be from an individual spammer--you might be able to show you had to buy a spam filter, but you can't show it's because of that one spammer."
Due to limitations in tackling spam that originates overseas, technology would provide the best defense against spam in the foreseeable future, Robertson added.
A representative of Information Commissioner Thomas confirmed that he is "definitely trying to get better powers in this area."
A representative for the Department of Trade & Industry told ZDNet UK that the commissioner's powers derive from the Data Protection Act, which is currently under review by the Department for Constitutional Affairs.
David Meyer of ZDNet UK reported from London.
6 commentsJoin the conversation! Add your comment