February 10, 2004 11:42 AM PST

Study: Spammers turning blind eye to the law

Only a fraction of the unsolicited e-mail slipping into in-boxes complies with a federal antispam law, according to new research.

Only 3 percent of bulk commercial e-mail includes a valid U.S. postal mail address and a valid link to opt out of future messages, according to data released on Tuesday by MX Logic, a maker of mail-filtering software. Those requirements are part of the Can-Spam Act, short for Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing, the nation's first federal spam law.

What's more, the amount of spam has continued to grow since the law went into effect at the beginning of the year. As much as 60 percent of the e-mail sent in January was spam, up from 58 percent in December, according to San Francisco-based Brightmail, one of the largest spam-filtering companies.

"We're seeing more spam than ever," said Ken Schneider, chief technology officer at Brightmail, which fields between 3 billion and 4 billion e-mail messages a day.

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Yet direct e-mail marketers are beginning to comply more often with the law, and many others are still attempting to understand its effects, Schneider said. "It's a little bit early to see huge amounts of compliance, but we are seeing people start to comply," he said.

Some legal antispam rules are still being worked out. In recent weeks, the Federal Trade Commission, which is charged with enforcing the Can-Spam Act, proposed a rule that would require senders of adult-related e-mail to include the phrase "Sexually-Explicit-Content:" in messages. That way, recipients would be able to recognize and easily filter such e-mail before viewing it. Schneider said that more e-mailers are already including the tag "ADLT."

Scott Chasin, chief technology officer at MX Logic, said that the Denver company is seeing more e-mail that originates overseas--as much as 60 percent in January, up 1 percent from December. Spam attacks from "zombie machines," or hijacked PCs, are also on the rise, he said.

To conduct its survey, MX Logic analyzed 10,000 random pieces of commercial e-mail over a 30-day period ending in February to detect a valid postal address and an opt-out link. In the first week of January, it surveyed 1,000 messages similarly and found that only 1 percent of e-mail complied with the law.

 

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