Do-Not-E-Mail Won’t Help: FTC

Those in the e-mail marketing and advertising industries voiced support last week for the Federal Trade Commission’s declaration to Congress that a do-not-e-mail list could not be enforced effectively, would fail to reduce the amount of spam and might even increase it.

“If they enforced or required such an e-mail registry, it would truly be the Fort Knox list of e-mail addresses for criminal spammers,” said Dan Jaffe, evp for government relations at the Association of National Advertisers. “Imposing such a list at this time is not only premature but counterproductive. And it would impose enormous costs on honest advertisers, while not stopping spam.”

The CAN-Spam Act of 2003 required the FTC to explore the feasibility of such an initiative. In a report to Congress last week, it nixed the idea, saying a list would likely result in more unwanted messages, because spammers would use it as a directory of valid addresses.

As an alternative, the FTC suggested concentrating on e-mail authentication systems, which would prevent spammers from concealing their identities and thereby evading law enforcement and Internet-service providers’ filters.

But even that could present a challenge, since technologically savvy violators could circumvent such systems, said Al DiGuido, CEO of New York-based Bigfoot Interactive, a permission-based e-mail communications firm. He suggested coupling authentication with a financial barrier that would require marketers to identify themselves, pass a credit screening and pay a fee to gain access.