MPs head to US on anti spam mission

Summits up

MPs from the UK are to meet with Senators and officials in Washington DC next month to discuss what can be done about spam.

It's the first time that a UK Parliamentary delegation has travelled to the US to discuss the issue. According to some estimates, half of all emails are now spam, of which 90 per cent of which comes from the US.

The All-Party Internet Group (APIG) - which includes MPs Derek Wyatt, Brian White and Andrew Miller - will be joined by e-Envoy, Andrew Pinder, to try and tackle the problem.

The MPs will meet their counterparts on Capital Hill to seek out ways in which legislation in the EU, UK and US could be used to combat unsolicited emails.

In particular, they will be making the case for the US to consider an “opt-in” - rather than their current “opt-out” - approach to unsolicited commercial email.

New legislation wheeled out last week and soon to be adopted by the UK means that commercial operations must get permission from people before sending them emails ("opt in").

But as Derek Wyatt points out in an article on his Web site, the US' "opt out" approach to spam is "philosophically different" to the EU's and a "recipe for disaster".

"Across the EU, spamming will only be allowed if the consumer has opted or signed up to receive the e-mail. This means direct marketing companies must first have permission from their new customers before they can send their junk mail.

"In America you've guessed, they want the consumer to opt-out from receiving direct e-mail by indicating at the bottom of the said e-mail that they no longer wish to be on this list. This is a recipe for disaster. Spammers will just swap e-mail addresses and send more viruses out so as to cull even more e-mail addresses," he wrote.

Said Mr Wyatt, chairman of APIG and a long-time anti spam campaigner: "As 90 per cent of all spamming emails originate in the USA, we must try and persuade our political colleagues in Washington that their current opt-out system might just ensure that the Internet becomes blocked forever which will push up costs and act as a major disincentive to use."

Earlier this summer APIG held an inquiry into spam. A report is due to be published early next month. ®

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