Gaming Strategy
Featured Stories
Legal News Financial News Casino Opening and Remodeling News Gaming Industry Executives Author Home Author Archives Search Articles Subscribe
Newsletter Signup
Stay informed with the
NEW Casino City Times newsletter!
Recent Articles
Mark Grossman

Legalized 'Spam'

6 February 2004

The good news is that Congress finally passed a law on spam. The bad news is that they legalized it.

In case you've been living in a cave for the last few years, "spam" is unsolicited commercial email. It's those lovely emails we all get hawking things like herbal remedies, bargain travel, Viagra and body part enhancers.

I say Congress "legalized" spam because a few states had laws that were stricter than this new Federal law and the Federal law overrules or "pre-empts" these state laws. Some have called the new law no more than an instructional guide on how to bombard you with spam.

Having said all this, the law is better than nothing and Florida is an example of a state that had zero in the way of spam regulation before this new Federal law took effect on January 1.

Under the new law, spammers may no longer do things like disguise their email header information. Spammers have traditionally done this so that you that you can't trace their email back to them. Also prohibited are misleading "From" lines, deceptive "Subject" lines and harvesting of email addresses from online sources if a there is a notice prohibiting this practice on a Web site.

What spammers must do is have a valid physical post office address in the email, have a "clear and conspicuous" notice that lets you "opt-out" and a working return address or an automated way to "opt-out."

This sounds great, but actually I'm still not sure what advice to give on the "opt-out." For years, I've been telling people that they should never "opt-out" of spam. The reason has been that spammers have used the opt-out as a way of confirming that an email address was a good one.

Remember, that spammers do their work based on pure volume. They don't take the time to confirm whether an address is still valid. They just blindly send bazillions of emails knowing that many go to bad addresses. Once you "opt-out," your address becomes gold to them because it now becomes a "confirmed" email address.

Now the question is do you start opting-out in the hopes that breaking the new Federal law will cause spammers to change a core business practice. For now, my advice remains don't opt-out. I'm betting that it will still be a trap to confirm your address. I reach this conclusion because as I look at my in-box, I don't see many spams that are complying with the new law. No accurate headers, misleading subject lines and other violations still look like the norm.

One thing to look for soon will be a report from the Federal Trade Commission on the feasibility of a "Do Not Spam" list. While I am enamored by the idea, I'm not sure how you overcome the list becoming a list of confirmed addresses for spammers outside our borders.

If I were a spammer, I would set up offshore in some funky lawless jurisdiction, buy myself some computers and spam the "Do Not Spam" list. Unless we're willing to send in the marines to enforce our spam laws, I'm not sure what we could do to overcome this loophole.

Here's your depressing bottom line. Spam is not going away anytime soon. Sorry, but don't shoot the messenger.

Legalized 'Spam' is republished from
Mark Grossman
Mark Grossman