1 July 2003 Dealing with spam costs the average company more than £6 a month per member of staff, according to figures released by email filtering service provider MessageLabs.
The claim is largely based on the amount of time wasted by employees dealing with the rising tide of spam, unsolicited commercial email (UCE), which MessageLabs says now accounts for more than half of all email it scans.
The figures were released to coincide with a ‘spam summit’ hosted by the parliamentary All Party Internet Group, which is conducting an investigation into the problem.
Members of Parliament will be taking submissions from the US Federal Trade Commission, which conducted its own investigation in the spring, Brightmail CEO Enrique Salem and Steve Linford, who runs the Spamhaus service, which tracks spammer’s operations and provides a free blacklist based on originating IP addresses to help organisations filter out spam.
According to Linford, some 180 ‘spam gangs’ account for about nine-tenths of the world’s English language spam. Furthermore, a high proportion of these gangs are based around Boca Raton, Florida, according to Linford.
However, a supreme court ruling in California has added to the confusion surrounding legal efforts to tackle spam.
In a long-running case between microprocessor giant Intel and disaffected former employee Ken Hamidi, the California supreme court rejected Intel’s claim that Hamidi’s mass emailing of Intel staff amounted to trespass, the basis of Intel’s case against Hamidi.
Hamidi is one of a number of former Intel employees, organised under the banner of ‘Former and Current Employees of Intel’ (FACE-Intel), who accuse the chip giant of bullying staff and running ‘sweatshops’.
Hamidi sent six email messages during the course of two years to a number of Intel email addresses in a bid to raise awareness for his organisation within the company. In 1998, Intel applied for an injunction against Hamidi, which was granted and which Hamidi has been fighting against ever since.
But the California supreme court ruled that Hamidi’s emailing did not cause the kind of harm normally associated with physical trespass of property. It concluded that the damage Intel claimed to have suffered as a result was minimal.
However, although the court tried to draw a distinction between the kind of emailing engaged in by Hamidi and spamming, it remains unclear whether it will set a precedent that will see spammers being let off the hook when companies such as Microsoft take them to court.