by CIO Staff

FTC: Spam Declining; Anti-Spam Vendors: Don’t Be So Sure…

Dec 22, 20052 mins
IT Strategy

Viagra.  Online Mortgages.  PayPal account updates and eBay security notices.  Such subject lines grace e-mail inboxes across the word every day.  No person is spared.  But according to the FTC, fewer and fewer of those pesky messages for cheap, imitation erectile dysfunction drugs and power-seller notices are distributed every day because of 2003’s CAN-SPAM Act.  Not everyone is in agreement.  Especially the folks whose job it is to battle spam.

On Tuesday, CSO reported that the FTC had unveiled Operation Button pusher, its newest anti-spam initiative, along with a CAN-SPAM progress report.

The report concluded that the Act is being actively enforced by state and local law enforcement, and that this has led to an overall decrease in the amount of spam distributed nationwide.  

Lydia Parnes, the FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection director, noted that she had noticed a decrease in the amount of spam sent to her e-mail account.  “If you haven’t seen a reduction in spam, I would really urge you to visit OnGuard Online,” Parnes said.”  I have, and I have actually seen reductions.  I think some very simple fixes (available at the OnGuard site) are really effective for consumers.”

Jordan Ritter, co-founder of San Francisco-based e-mail security firm, Cloudmark, doesn’t agree with the FTC’s report.  “For us, we have not seen one single instance where spam has actually gone down,” Ritter said in an Associated Press report.

Ritter is not alone in feeling that the FTC may be off the mark with Tuesday’s announcement.  Andrew Lochart, senior director of marketing with Postini, an e-mail filtering company, recently told Computerworld, “There isn’t a lot of good news to report.  The percentage of e-mail that’s spam, phishing, viruses or a directory-harvesting attack continues to up.”

Scott Chasin, chief technology officer with MX Logic, another anti-spam company, spoke with CNET on the subject. “We would not make the statement today that spam has completely declined,” Chasin said. “What we can say, and what we believe, is that spam has declined as far as reaching the consumer’s inbox.  I think it’s a big difference from saying overall spam volumes are down.”

So is there really less spam in your inbox than at the end of last year?  I counted 73 new messages in my Postini filter this morning…and I emptied it yesterday afternoon.

By Al Sacco