Monday, March 8, 2010

This just in: Users to blame for spam

Frequently we see news articles out there which go for the low hanging fruit and point out the obvious. After literally several decades of spam out there, Information Week decided it was high time to weigh in with the hard hitting report "Users to blame for spam".

Actually, they are saying that user ignorance is to blame - which is fairly different. The big one they point out is that people are using the unsubscribe links. The article states that this makes a spammer realize you are a "live one" and then spam you more. Technically with the various bits of legislation passed over the years, those links are supposed to be mandatory in commercial email, and they are supposed to be hooked up to a system which works. That said, I would still see it highly likely that the unsubscribe link very much does, for many of the spammers out there, actually unsubscribe you from that list. But, just as the article says, it shows the spammers that you read their spam (or at least clicked on a link in it), so you are more attractive to them than someone who just throw out the message. So while they take you off of that list, they might add you to a database of users for another spammer or another spam mailing they do.

On a side note, in terms of user ignorance, I have spoken with users in the past who thought that clicking "unsubscribe" would make them stop getting all spam. Clicking it on one message, and then it just stops for them entirely.
I believe they thought that they accidentally turned on the spam, and that was the way to undo it.

Note that at the bottom of that article, they say 10% of the people interviewed for the study done had purchased items from spam. That is a huge percentage considering spammers usually look for only a fraction of that - but I have a feeling that study didn't involve millions of people the way spam runs do.

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