Federal Trade Commissioner Orson Swindle, 67, chats about his agency's popular Do-Not-Call list and the proposed Do-Not-Spam list. A former Marine aviator, Swindle spent more than six years in a North Vietnamese prisoner-of-war camp.
PC World: Isn't the FTC's Do-Not-Call telemarketing list one of the most popular citizen-participation programs ever?
Orson Swindle: Certainly since I've been here. It's made real heroes out of us. We see people with T-shirts on, saying, "I like Do-Not-Call." In fact, one of our employees jogging one day had an FTC T-shirt on, and somebody stopped and said, "Thank you for Do-Not-Call."
PCW: And now the FTC is considering a Do-Not-Spam registry?
Swindle: A part of [the federal CAN-SPAM Act of 2003] directs the FTC to take a very serious look at the possibility of a Do-Not-Spam list similar to the Do-Not-Call list. We are in the process of going through that right now. We expect to hear from an awful lot of people, and probably some spammers, too. We have a big task before us...to come up with a report to Congress by mid-June as to what might be done and whether or not it's feasible.
PCW: It strikes me that this would be much more difficult than the Do-Not-Call list.
Swindle: In the world of spam, many people have many e-mail addresses. There are no state or border boundaries. There's an infinite number of e-mail addresses, and there is no regulation. I cannot personally conceive of a way to regulate the Internet in the sense that telephone companies were regulated for a long period of time, and I don't know that that would be desirable.
PCW: Is there a specific technology you've seen in your FTC tenure that either really excited or truly terrified you?
Swindle: I've been through enough in life to not be terrified about too many things. I'm fascinated by the possibilities of the peer-to-peer technology used in transferring files from one person to another. The potential there for productivity efficiencies in other uses, that's just incredible.
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