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The European parliament has bungled its latest attempt to outlaw spam.

Yesterday MEPs voted in favour (259 for, 210 against and 6 abstentions) of an amendment that would have prohibited the sending of unsolicited email without prior permission.

The so-called "opt-in" system is favoured by many who have lobbied against spam and who want to curtail the activities of online marketeers.

However, because the result of a series of amendments proved unacceptable to a majority of MEPs, the whole matter was referred back to the Committee on Citizens' Freedoms and Rights, Justice and Home Affairs to debate further the draft directive on privacy protection in electronic communication.

According to Joe McNamee of the Internet lobby group EuroISPA, yesterday's vote is bad news for consumers.

"We hope that the amendments finally adopted by the Parliament deal with the issue comprehensively," he said.

"The current legal situation governed by 15 versions of the data protection directive, distance selling directive, electronic commerce directive and a 'country of reception' rule governing junk e-mail is simply untenable and confusing.

"Until something decisive is done, the only winners are spammers and the losers are European e-commerce and
European consumers," he said.

According to one insider, yesterday's debacle was made worse because the differences between "opt-in" and "opt-out" were blurred in some translations causing some MEPs to vote for the wrong side. Ho hum. ®

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