Three Minutes: Will We Get a Do-Not-Spam List?

Photograph: Katherine Lambert
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 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.

Check out the FTC's tips for keeping business computer systems secure.

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