Spam: The Gotchas Never End

Louderback: The fight against spam has some unintended consequences you should consider.

Everyones up in arms about spam. The government wants to legislate it, software vendors want to control it, and corporate IT managers just want to eradicate it. But the fight against spam has had some unintended consequences you just might not have thought about. Here are four spam problems to consider as you attempt to wipe it out.

SPAM management: Recently, Ziff Davis Media, my employer, implemented an anti-spam program that requires me to check a Web-based folder to review what the program marked as spam. All well and good, but since Im using the Office 11 beta, I also have Microsoft Outlook filtering spam for me too. That means in addition to deleting spam that makes it through the two filters, I now have to manage my growing set of spam folders. Suddenly Ive gone from an irate spam deleter to a spam manager. Im not exactly sure the trade-off is worth it.

False positives: At least I go through my spam folders. When eWEEK Editor in Chief Eric Lundquist and I discussed spam recently, he admitted that he doesnt even check—he just deletes anything in that folder. But no anti-spam software package is perfect. That means, sooner or later, some important piece of e-mail will go unread because it gets flagged as spam. Come to think of it, that ends up being a great excuse:

Boss: Did you get my e-mail about the Flibberblaster project?
Forgetful Employee: Nope, it must have been deleted by our new anti-spam program.

Expect "The spam filter got it" to join "The checks in the mail" and "The dog ate my homework" as one of the great all-time excuses.

Permission-based e-mail: Has this happened to you? You send someone e-mail, and get a response back that reads something like:

"Hi, you just sent me an e-mail. But Im too much of a wussy to just accept it because Im petrified by spam. Can you click on this URL and verify who you are? Then Ill read your message."

Whenever I get one of those, I just delete the message. Hey, Ive already sent you the message once, nothings so important that Im going to send it again. To everyone with such a grandiose opinion of his or her own self-importance: Wise up. Forcing people to verify themselves before you deign to accept their e-mail is selfish, self-centered and wrong. Just say no.

Anti-spam spam: Take Frontiers Matador anti-spam program. Please. I installed the evaluation version, and guess what it did? Without my permission, it added a line to the end of all of my e-mail messages saying, "This inbox protected by Frontiers Matador." Can you believe it! The anti-spam program has just turned every single e-mail I send out into spam. What a pathetically stupid move by a company supposedly protecting us!

Now I know how to change my signature file in Outlook, but its not terribly obvious. And supposedly if you buy the full version, it deletes the spam message. But Ill never know because Ive just added Frontier to my spam filter. Any company that adds spam to my personal e-mails is just plain evil. Shame on you!

Jim Louderback can be reached at