Feeds

Telecoms reform tabled as EU plots spam clampdown

Italy praised and UK shamed over enforcement

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

The European Commission is calling on tougher action to fight spammers and protect online privacy.

A Commission-funded study found that enforcement action against junk mailers across the EU is inconsistent. It wants to see spam laws tightened up, alongside "clearer and more consistent enforcement rules", funds to support national privacy watchdogs and better cross-border cooperation.

Brussels securitycrats also want to see spammers and spyware slingers dragged into market squares, put in stocks and pelted with rotten vegetables to face tougher sanctions.

"Although since 2002, European law has prohibited spam and spyware, on average 65 per cent of EU citizens are still affected by spam on a regular basis," said Viviane Reding, EU commissioner for information society and media. "We need to step up our fight against spammers and make sure that the EU adopts legislation that provides for strong civil and criminal sanctions against spammers. I call on EU countries to reinforce their national efforts to fight on-line privacy threats such as spam, spyware and malicious software."

An EU-funded study, published on Thursday, included an analysis of more than 140 enforcement cases from 22 Member States, and demonstrated big differences between in spam enforcement. The largest numbers of cases were reported in Spain (39), Slovakia (39) and Romania (20). The highest fines were imposed in the Netherlands (€1,000,000), Italy (€570,000) and Spain (€30,000). By contrast, convicted spammers in countries such as Romania, Ireland, and Latvia received paltry fines ranging from hundreds to several thousand Euros.

Zul ponts

From the point when national anti-spam laws were on the drawing board it was clear that Italy and The Netherlands, for example, had decent enforcement regimes while the UK's proposals had been watered down by direct marketing lobbyists. Experts like Spamhaus were ignored, and the UK ended up with a law that didn't apply to spam messages sent to business email addresses and existed without adequate enforcement.

The EU release lists the number of enforcement actions across 14 European countries. Britain doesn't merit a mention because there's nothing to report on spam prosecutions.

UK spammers have been prosecuted for other crimes carried out while spamming, but not for the act of simply sending out junk mail. For example, Peter Francis-Macrae - reputedly the UK's biggest spammer - was jailed for six years back in 2006 after he was convicted on a variety of charges, ranging from fraud and blackmail to making threats to kill.

United front

The battle against online threats is assisted by a combination of prevention, enforcement and raising public awareness. Regulators have the key role of coordinating efforts across borders and stimulating cooperation between public and private organisations.

The EU study found the level of cooperation differed markedly between different EU countries. Cooperation agreements exist in Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, France, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Romania and the UK, while Luxembourg and Malta, for example, rely on informal ties.

Reform of the EU's telecoms rules proposed by the Commission (under consideration by the European Parliament and the Council) aims to tighten up enforcement of privacy rules. According to these rules, "penalties for breaking national laws on online privacy should be effective, proportionate and dissuasive". Providing the rules pass, EU countries would also be obliged to allocate adequate resources to national enforcement authorities. The new rules also entitle ISPs to take legal action against spammers that abuse their networks.

Separately, the European Commission is negotiating an agreement with the US on cross border cooperation for the enforcement of consumer protection laws. Spam enforcement would form part of this agreement and is important, because industry figures cited by the EU suggest one in six spam emails are sent from the US.

More information on the study, including assessments of progress in each EU country, can be found here, and via links in a press statement here. ®

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
You really need to do some tech support for Aunty Agnes
Free anti-virus software, expires, stops updating and p0wns the world
Attack reveals 81 percent of Tor users but admins call for calm
Cisco Netflow a handy tool for cheapskate attackers
Privacy bods offer GOV SPY VICTIMS a FREE SPYWARE SNIFFER
Looks for gov malware that evades most antivirus
Patch NOW! Microsoft slings emergency bug fix at Windows admins
Vulnerability promotes lusers to domain overlords ... oops
Oi, Europe! Tell US feds to GTFO of our servers, say Microsoft and pals
By writing a really angry letter about how it's harming our cloud business, ta
prev story

Whitepapers

Choosing cloud Backup services
Demystify how you can address your data protection needs in your small- to medium-sized business and select the best online backup service to meet your needs.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
10 threats to successful enterprise endpoint backup
10 threats to a successful backup including issues with BYOD, slow backups and ineffective security.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Internet Security Threat Report 2014
An overview and analysis of the year in global threat activity: identify, analyze, and provide commentary on emerging trends in the dynamic threat landscape.