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THE DMA OPPOSES SURREPTITIOUS HARVESTING AND DICTIONARY ATTACKS OF E-MAIL ADDRESSESWASHINGTON, DC, April 30, 2003 – The Direct Marketing Association (The DMA) today announced that commercial messages should not be sent when e-mail addresses have been captured surreptitiously – a practice often called harvesting. In addition, The DMA announced its position against the practice of automatic algorithmic e-mail addressing, also known as dictionary attacks, that spammers use in mass untargeted marketing campaigns or in order to ascertain live addresses.
According to The DMA, both practices constitute abuses of the right to send e-mail legitimately and could ultimately undercut e-mail as a valuable business communications tool.
The DMA made the announcement concurrent to its participation at the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) three-day public workshop on spam.
The DMA’s announcement was the latest move in its anti-spam campaign. In addition, The DMA is calling on bolstered law enforcement of current consumer anti-fraud laws as well as federal legislation, among other things to combat unscrupulous spam.
“The DMA’s stance against surreptitious harvesting and dictionary attacks is meant to help preserve the value of the e-mailbox for consumers,” said H. Robert Wientzen, president & CEO, The DMA. “We want to use our resources to alert consumers that these illicit practices are happening on the Web.”
“While we do not believe that legitimate marketers traffic in such practices, we do want to put them and their customers on notice that there are illegitimate interests who use dictionary attacks and harvesting to peddle everything from Nigerian widow scams to body enlargement come ons,” said Jerry Cerasale, senior vice president, government affairs, The DMA.
Both Mr. Wientzen and Mr. Cerasale, along with DMA counsel Stuart Ingis, will participate on three separate panels at the FTC Spam Forum.
POSITIONS OF THE DMA ON SPECIFIC ISSUES RELATED TO SPAM
Legitimate Marketers Do Not Spam
The problem of spam is caused by illegitimate hucksters who hide their identity, commit fraud and who do not respect consumers' preferences. "Even other vocal anti-spam advocates agree that legitimate marketers are NOT the problem," said Wientzen.
The DMA requires its members' e-mail solicitations to present the four pillars of reputable e-mail:
Enforcement Is Key To Curbing Spam
Aggressive enforcement of existing fraud laws and federal legislation that responsibly addresses the illegitimate spam without killing e-mail as a business tool are two of the keys to curbing the runaway growth of spam.
The FTC has been effective in bringing civil actions against spammers with its Northeast Net Force. Also, The DMA has led the effort to bring criminal charges against abusers of the e-mail system by engaging the FBI and the U.S. Secret Service. The DMA continues to seek concrete ways in which it can assist law enforcement, perhaps by doing much of the investigative leg work prior to prosecution, also known as the “Silver Platter” approach.
No Silver Bullets
Spam is a complex problem, and it will require a complex solution. No single action or piece of legislation will, on its own, stem the rising tide of spam.
In addition to supporting federal anti-spam legislation, The DMA is leading ad hoc groups of law enforcement agencies and industry partners in developing techniques and strategies, including possibly the development of an industry-wide Gold List, which will act as additional arrows in the quiver against spam.
Federal Legislative Proposals
The DMA continues to call for federal legislation to help stem the growth of spam. The recently introduced Burns/Wyden CAN SPAM Act is an excellent piece of legislation. The DMA supports the legislation in principle and approach.
The legislation would set a common, national standard for sending commercial e-mail and provide additional tools for law enforcement.
The DMA will continue to work with staffs from both Senate offices to ensure that definitions in the legislation are commonly understood by all stakeholders.
The DMA opposes laws that would require government to classify speech with specific language. For example, if government can force the use of “ADV” to signify advertisements, then could it also force the use of “REL” for religious matter or “POL” for political or “CHAR” for subjects relating to charities?
Clearly, labeling legislation can quickly lead to a slippery slope, as is demonstrated by the example above, whereby the government becomes the final arbiter of what can be said and how.
Furthermore, the efficacy of such laws is questionable at best. Only legitimate, law-abiding marketers would actually use ADV labeling – subjecting themselves to mass filtering.
By contrast, spammers – who currently have no compunction about sending e-mails that include false headers, inaccurate subject lines and include dubious solicitations – most likely would not abide by labeling laws. As a result, this illicit group’s e-mails would avoid spam filters that stop ADV-labeled e-mail. Such a system creates the opposite effect of controlling the growth of spam in e-mailboxes. In fact, it nearly guarantees that all anyone ever receives is illegitimate spam.
Proposals to create government-operated do-not-e-mail registries would fail to nab spammers. In fact, such a list would only punish reputable marketers who would abide by it. Again, what illegitimate spammer is likely to run its list through a do-not-e-mail system?
The DMA is the leading trade association for businesses interested in interactive and database marketing, with nearly 4,700 member companies from the United States and 53 other nations. Founded in 1917, its members include direct marketers from every business segment as well as the nonprofit and electronic marketing sectors. Included are catalogers, Internet retailers and service providers, financial services providers, book and magazine publishers, book and music clubs, retail stores, industrial manufacturers and a host of other vertical segments, including the service industries that support them. According to a DMA-commissioned study, direct and interactive marketing sales in the United States are projected to have surpassed $2 trillion in 2002, including $126 billion in catalog sales and $34 billion in sales generated by the Internet. The DMA's Web site is www.the-dma.org, and its consumer Web site is www.shopthenet.org..