Concern about the proliferation of unsolicited bulk email, commonly referred to as spam, has been steadily increasing. When received in small quantities, spam may annoy recipients, but rarely poses a significant problem. However, some recipients of large quantities of spam find themselves so overwhelmed with unwanted email that it is time-consuming or difficult for them to ferret out their desired correspondence. A variety of technical countermeasures to spam have been proposed: the simplest are already being implemented; some of the more extreme could require dramatic changes to the ways we communicate electronically. In addition, there has been growing support in the US for laws that would restrict the sending of spam. In this article we examine the spam problem and discuss the probable long-term effectiveness of current and proposed technical countermeasures as well as possible regulatory solutions. This article includes three sidebars: A case study, What does spam advertise?, and What you can do about spam.
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Lorrie Faith Cranor