|Received:||4/14/2004 7:09:36 AM|
|State:||Not in the US|
|Agency:||Federal Trade Commission|
As a consumer I am very please with your attempts to cut down annoying and intrusive unsolicited commercial email. However, I have grave concerns about the way in which CAN-SPAM seeks to address these problems. The vast majority of annoying and intrusive spam comes from two sources: pornography and companies selling pharmaceuticals (e.g. viagra). In addition there are other companies who send out spam. There are several characteristics that mark all of these out: 1) The mail is completely unsolicited - i.e. my email address is harvested by some type of automated means, or is bought or rented from a third party without my consent or knowledge. Only relatively large and well capitalised companies are able to do this. 2) There is no opt-out mechanism at all - often a false opt-out link is provided. 3) There is no valid address suplied - I suspect that many of these companies operate from third world countries, away from the reach of US enforcers! Banning such spam is praiseworthy. However, the current provisions of CAN-SPAM will be VERY detrimental to small, private entrepreneurs who are trying to run legitimate businesses on the net, whilst it will probably have no effect at all on these large spammers. I, like many net-entreprenuers, use affiliate marketing. In this I pay a commission to my affilates for promoting my products. I will not permit an affilate to send unsolicited spam - they should send only to people with whom they have an opt-in relationship. However, apart from 'firing' rogue affilates I have no control over what they actually do. It would be unjustifiable to hold the parent company (me) liable for the action of independent affilates. These affilates must be accountable for their own actions and no-one else's. Many affiliates send out newsletters in which they promote several products. It is completely unworkable to allow people to opt-out of one advertisement and not another - either they opt-out of the whole mailing list, or they get the whole newsletter. To do otherwise would effectively end most newsletters run by and for the ordinary person AND WOULD HAVE NO EFFECT AT ALL on the real source of spam. In other words, the idea of having to check a central database for each subscriber, for each ad, in each newsletter, would be completely prohibitive and completely unworkeable. All that is needed to end spam is: 1) a requirement that every sender (and a sender is only the person who actually sends the entire email) be able to prove that they have a relationship with their recipient (e.g. a customer, a friend, or opt-in subscriber) 2) there be three categories of email: a) entirely personal, that does not include: b) customer service - related only to the servicing of a previous purchase (e.g. notification of upgrades, recalls, etc.), and c) commercial - anything that is beyond the above 3) a requirement that there be a genuine, working, opt-out system on any and every customer-service or commercial emal. Firms may choose, but cannot be forced, to offer two opt-outs: one for service and one for commercial 4) a requirement for a physical address on all service or commercial emails. These four points will make illegal 99% of the annoying spam, whilst not hurting any genuine businesses. The remaining problems is then one of enforcement, which leads to the need for: 5) a central reporting point to which offending emails can be forwarded for investigation. It would be very easy for the investigating office to determine if the offending email met the above criteria. Of course, tracking down the viagra seller who has a constantly changing domain name, under a false owner's name, operating from Nigeria might be another matter! Anything beyond the above is over-intrusive, very harmful to genuine business (particularly the small operator), and is far beyond what we experience offline - Tell me, how do I opt-out from billboard advertising???