1997-05-31 - Re: Rotenberg as the Uber Enemy

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From: “Robert A. Costner” <pooh@efga.org>
To: Tim May <tcmay@got.net>
Message Hash: 890b8cdedebeb1c34044e86b5c21e736151c4611ccf11824124a0cb9c3d428ba
Message ID: <>
Reply To: <v03102801afb561409260@[]>
UTC Datetime: 1997-05-31 14:25:48 UTC
Raw Date: Sat, 31 May 1997 22:25:48 +0800

Raw message

From: "Robert A. Costner" <pooh@efga.org>
Date: Sat, 31 May 1997 22:25:48 +0800
To: Tim May <tcmay@got.net>
Subject: Re: Rotenberg as the Uber Enemy
In-Reply-To: <v03102801afb561409260@[]>
Message-ID: <>
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: text/plain


I have not heard Rotenberg's statements on private collection of public data 
and spam, but I can make my own.

At 10:13 PM 5/30/97 -0700, Tim May wrote:
>The latest quote is from Marc Rotenberg, on a CNN piece on spam and
>anti-spam legislation, saying that what the legislators in Congress really
>need to look into is how the spammers develop their data bases.....
>Incredible. Does he propose investigations of private data gathering?

I'd agree here.  Rather than have Congress blindly pass a law, some 
investigation of the matter should be done first.  While I am not supporting a 
law, any such law should have three parts:

 a) Codification
 b) Rulemaking
 c) Further Investigation

Codification is actual law, and takes a lot of agreement and about two years 
to change.  Rules are created by an agency and take about 120 to change.  
Investigation allows the clueless and unknowing to study the impact of the law 
and whether or not the law, and less or stronger provisions are appropriate.  
Take one simple provision as an example, tagging of commercial spam.  One less 
enlightened bill proposes that the subject line always begin with the word 
"Advertisement".  A better solution would be to a) codify the principle, not 
the method.  "All spam must be tagged."  b) Allow rules to be created that 
describe the tagging process (for example an X-header or subject line.  The 
use of "Ad:" instead of the full word) c) Allow the agency involved to perform 
a study to see if the rulemaking worked, if not then change the rule.

As for investigations into data gathering, I've been doing that for some time. 
 It has educated me, and would no doubt educate congress.  Two years ago, I 
spoke with the president of Pro-CD, a popular CD-phonebook company.  I asked 
him why unlisted numbers are not on the CD's, and why so few fax numbers are 
on the CD's.  This information is readily available.  He said that only 
previous published collections are republished by him.  What spammers are 
doing is invasive in that they are collecting the information for the first 

>I may not "like" it, but their behavior is as legal as someone 
>calling me on the phone.

I'll agree with you to some degree.  After all, it *IS* ILLEGAL for someone to 
call you on the phone for the equivalent of spam, many people would like email 
spam to be just as illegal.  However there are loopholes in the law that allow 
email to be sent under the same circumstances.  State laws, and the federal 
law have provisions such as time ranges calls can be made (daytime hours 
only), prohibitions on the use of automated equipment, removal lists, and call 
destinations absolutely prohibited (hospitals, emergency numbers).

For good or for bad, the current movement in lawmaking is to plug these 
loopholes that exist for email.

>Look, I'm annoyed by getting 5-10 "unwanted" spam messages a day.

Then you miss the point.  For all practical purposes, the spam industry does 
not exist in the US.  There are one or two, perhaps a dozen companies doing 
this as a full time endevour.  We are not close to spam companies matching the 
number of radio stations, or even newspapers.  We do not even envision the 
concept of the number of spammers equaling the number of lawyers.  The current 
spam bills are meant to address the actions of about five people in the entire 
United States.

Pick up any metropolitan newspaper.  Count the number of classified ads on any 
given day.  Spam is cheaper and reaches more people.  Would you like to see 
this number of spams in you mail box?  Will you honestly say that 500-1000 
spams in your mailbox is simply annoying?  Multiply this by the number of 
newspapers in the US.   

The manner in which the information is collected is invasive.  People feel 
their privacy is being violated.  The right to be left alone is a fundamental 
right.  While some spammers may feel they have a right to speak, they have no 
right to be heard.  They do not have a right to force me to listen.  The cost 
shifting problem also needs to be addressed.

Current spam bills are based on CONTENT of the spam message.  Another way to 
address the problem is to look at the data collection issue.  A third method 
is to address the headers.

Data collection is currently being done on an opt-out basis.  Opt-in is 
thought by many to be preferable.

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  -- Robert Costner                  Phone: (770) 512-8746
     Electronic Frontiers Georgia    mailto:pooh@efga.org  
     http://www.efga.org/            run PGP 5.0 for my public key