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BusinessTech View

Canning spam took an act of Congress

A few years ago we thought never we’d say this, but spam, the e-mail variety, has actually improved. More accurately, the process around which spam is delivered and managed has improved.

Back in the day, we’d warn folks not to ever respond to spam, or "unsolicited commercial e-mail" (UCE) as it is more formally known. A reply e-mail, even to a reputable organization, would almost certainly result in an uncontrollable amount of new spam. "Delete it without even opening it," was our mantra.

But nowadays, as businesses and government agencies have come to realize, providing proper controls around their UCE campaigns actually pays higher dividends than the old days of randomly shooting out messages to any and all. The proper use of spam has, in fact, improved marketing and communication, and attracted more folks to these organizations.

For example, most every reputable organization has a true opt-out function that allows you to decline future e-mails. In the old days, all opting-out did was take you off one list and put you on another. Nowadays, opting out of a legitimate organization’s e-mail list typically is successful.

Furthermore, legitimate e-mail marketers have learned to make their messages much more direct, attractive and professional in appearance. Spammers, of course, are notorious for spelling and grammar errors, not to mention some rather ugly layouts.

What’s caused these changes? In 2004, Congress enacted the CAN-SPAM (Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing) act in an attempt to regulate spam. While this act was largely ineffective in preventing the bad guys of the e-mail world from sending out spam, it delineated several rules that legitimate e-mail marketers should follow. As a result, the good guys of the e-mail world finally had some guidelines to differentiate themselves from the purveyors of miracle drugs and get-rick-quick schemes.

In addition to the above-mentioned opt-out process, CAN-SPAM prohibited deceptive subject lines and fake to/from information. Further, CAN-SPAM also called for the inclusion of a "valid physical postal address," as well as an indication that the message is, in fact, an advertisement.

So if all of these criteria are met, then chances are pretty good that any response to it will be treated fairly and accurately. You probably won’t be bombarded with more spam if you un-subscribe, and you won’t be redirected to a porn site if you click on the links in the message. Sure, this might seem like a long list of items to review just to read a simple e-mail, but with a little practice it will become second nature for most.

John Agsalud is an IT expert with more than 20 years of information technology experience in Hawaii and around the world. He can be reached at johnagsalud@yahoo.coman


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