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Spam Uncanned

Why the recent anti-spam legislation isn't protecting you

Is the Can-Spam legislation reducing unsolicited e-mail? Not according to a February 2004 survey by the Pew Internet & American Life Project. Fifty-three percent of home and work e-mail users haven't noticed a change since the first of January, when the legislation went into effect. In fact, while 11 percent of work e-mail users noticed a decrease in spam, 19 percent saw an increase.

The law doesn't prevent spam; it attempts to regulate how it's sent. Meanwhile, spammers continue using automated programs to harvest the Web for e-mail addresses. Internet marketers are especially vulnerable. A few simple steps can help you better protect your privacy while you're promoting your business online.

  • Remove your personal e-mail address from other Web sites. Have you written or been quoted in online articles? Do you participate in online forums? Is your e-mail address included in these online promotions or others? Check out the Web sites where you or your company have been mentioned. (Run a query in search engines for your name or your company's name to find those Web sites.) If necessary, ask that your e-mail address be removed.
  • Use "throw-away" e-mail addresses. Sometimes you're required to provide your e-mail address to receive an e-zine or to participate in a chat group, for example. Consider using a "throw-away" e-mail address, not the primary ones you use at work or home. If it becomes inundated with spam, just delete it or stop using it.
  • Replace e-mail addresses on your site with a contact form. Does your company site list the personal e-mail addresses of executives, and sales and press contacts? Your marketing efforts start at home base, and unfortunately, this is an easy way for spammers to grab your e-mail address. Consider using a contact form and embedding the "form to e-mail" script, which hides the e-mail address that receives the form data. You can also display e-mail addresses as nonlinkable graphics so harvesting programs can't read them.

Also realize that if you register a URL, your e-mail is placed in a publicly accessible database. In an effort to prevent spammers from using this database, several domain registration services offer private registration. An alternate e-mail, postal address and phone number will be listed in the contact database. Network Solutions is offering private registration at an introductory rate of just $5 per year, plus the cost of a domain name. A few bucks for the idea of less spam seems worth it.

Once you receive spam, you can report deceptive messages or ignored unsubscribe requests to your ISP and the FTC. However, that's a reactive measure that won't prevent new spammers from finding you. Being proactive in protecting your e-mail address during your marketing activities is a key action step.


Speaker and freelance writer Catherine Seda owns an Internet marketing agency (www.sedacommunication.com) and is author of Search Engine Advertising.

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This article was originally published in the July 2004 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Spam Uncanned.

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