Feds Assess 2-Year-Old Spam Law
Is the two-year-old U.S. antispam law known as the CAN-SPAM act working? The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) will issue a report to Congress on this topic this week, but those who make a living stopping spam believe that the answer is an unequivocal "no."
Report Due Tuesday
The report, entitled "Effectiveness and Enforcement of the CAN-SPAM Act," is scheduled to be released at a press event in Washington Tuesday. Officials from state and federal enforcement agencies, as well as the Canadian Competition Bureau, will also announce "criminal law enforcement initiatives targeting illegal spam operations," the FTC said in a statement.
But the difficulty in catching spammers has made the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing (CAN-SPAM) Act largely ineffective, according to executives with spam-blocking companies.
"There isn't a lot of good news to report," said Andrew Lochart, senior director of marketing with Postini. "The percentage of e-mail that's spam, phishing, viruses, or a directory-harvesting attack continues to go up."
At present Postini processes about 500 million messages a day for its customers. About 12 percent of them are flagged as legitimate e-mail, Lochart said.
Jordan Ritter, chief technology officer with Cloudmark, agrees that the law has been ineffective, but he doubts that the FTC report will say so.
"I would expect it not to say that [the law] has been a dismal failure," Ritter said.
Despite several high-profile enforcement actions, however, it has proved to be too difficult to catch and punish most spammers, many of whom operate outside of the U.S., Ritter said. "It's had to track these people down," he said.
If there is any good news to report, it may be that CAN-SPAM is driving some spammers out of the U.S. Security research firm Sophos recently found that while more spam originates in the U.S. than any other country, the percentage of worldwide spammers within U.S. borders is dropping. In the first six months of 2005, U.S. computers were responsible for about 26 percent of the world's spam, down from 42 percent the previous year.
The CAN-SPAM Act was signed into law two years ago last week.