Survey Says: Users Want Do-Not-Spam List

A recent survey finds the majority of Americans do not see technological means of combating spam sufficient, so want a federal Do-Not-Spam list.

IT security experts and policy-makers see a wide range of problems associated with the notion of a Do-Not-Spam list modeled after the wildly popular Do-Not-Call list, but the majority of Americans in a recent survey want to see just such an initiative to stop unwanted e-mail.

Technological means of combating spam, such as filtering and opt-out links, are not seen as sufficient, the survey found. Users widely fear that opt-out merely confirms their e-mail address for the spammer, and they are unsure whether it will work and be honored, according to the survey findings.

The survey of more than 1,090 adults was conducted by the ePrivacy Group and the Ponemon Institute in Tucson, Ariz. The ePrivacy Group is a privately held Philadelphia company that provides anti-spam technology, such as the sender certification Trusted Sender technology.

Seventy-four percent of those polled said they want a federal Do-Not-Spam list. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., is sponsoring legislation that would set up a list, but measures pending in the House of Representatives do not include such a provision.

The survey found that most e-mail users support a right of individuals to sue spammers, which is an issue dividing lawmakers trying to craft federal anti-spam legislation. Two bills pending in the House take opposing positions on an individuals right to sue, but they both permit ISPs and state governments to sue.

Defining spam remains a key challenge for policy-makers. There is a broad consensus that the government should take greater steps to combat fraudulent and pornographic unsolicited e-mail, but there is disagreement as to what other categories of unsolicited e-mail should be curbed. Industry is fighting to preserve the right to send unsolicited messages as long as they meet legal standards, and most businesses want to continue to send e-mail unless a receiver affirmatively "opts out."

However, many e-mail users consider much of their unasked-for messages spam even if the messages are legal. The survey found that most consumers define spam by the type of e-mail received or the relationship with the sender; whether they were given the opportunity to opt out wasnt a defining issue. More than 31 percent of those polled said they consider all unsolicited advertising e-mail to be spam.