Spam Levels Are Down: Are Consumers Waking Up?

Recent statistics assembled by Symantec have indicated that unsolicited spam e-mails have dropped by staggering 47% in the past several months.  Seeing as approximately 80% of all e-mails are unsolicited spam messages, the reduction equates to countless billions of unwanted e-mails that are no longer being received.

What accounts for the drop?  The numbers didn’t plummet this much after the passage of the Can-Spam Act of 2003, mainly due to the fact that the overwhelming bulk of spam traffic originates overseas in jurisdictions where U.S. law is cheerfully disregarded, nor did the various legislative efforts enacted by the states make much of a dent.  Spam filters work up to a point, but they can’t stop everything, and the spammers always seem to stay one step ahead through the use of increasingly sophisticated Botnets (networks of virus-infected computers), which are used to send 80% of all spam.

I would like to think that the reduction is a market-based phenomenon.  After all, the only reason so much spam winds up in people’s inboxes is that the practice works well enough to make the spammers money.  But even sending spam costs something, and it could very well be that consumers are finally waking up and realizing that they should not only refuse to open unsolicited e-mails, but should also never respond to them or buy anything from the sites the e-mails direct them to.

However, the drop is more likely attributable to the recent arrest of a 23-year-old Russian named Oleg Nikolenko, also known as the “King of Spam,” who is alleged to control a network of infected computers that sent 10 billion unwanted e-mails a day, which accounted for one-third of the world’s daily spam.

Whatever the reason, according to some sources, U.S. corporate and consumer spam are at least a $108.8 billion annual problem, $92.2 billion of which is due to lost consumer and employee productivity and another $16.6 billion in preventative and administrative costs.   If this volume reduction can be sustained, it may even make a dent in our current recession.

Author: Seth Heyman
Seth D. Heyman is a California attorney with extensive experience in advertising and marketing law, corporate law, contracts, governmental regulations, international business, and Internet law. He has counseled numerous successful companies, both public and private, and was responsible for regulatory compliance, contract management, corporate governance, and HR best practices for multiple organizations in many diverse industries, including marketing, telecommunications, energy, and technology development. He offers insight and guidance on federal and state direct mail, TV, radio, telemarketing, and Internet marketing laws, as well as online promotions, Internet privacy, data protection regulations, and similar matters.

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