European Anti-spam Laws Useless

European anti-spam legislation won’t do a thing to quench the flood of junk email across the region, says a report from the University of Amsterdam.

Why? Because Europe isn’t sending the bulk of it. As the study say “The simple fact that most spam originates from outside the EU restricts the European Union’s Directive’s effectiveness considerably.”

The study was conducted over nine months by Dr Lodewijk Asscher and a team at the Institute for Information Law at the university.

Europe’s guidelines for direct marketing are contained in the EU Directive on Privacy and Electronic Communication. The directive was passed in July 2002 and the compliance deadline was six months ago. So of course, you’ve been seeing less spam since then. Yes, we thought the real outcome was different too.

The legislation requires that users only receive bulk emails that they have opted-in to. Nice idea but since opting-in is a key way that spammers harvest addresses in the first place, and the legislation is yet to make a single prosecution against a spammer, the model is somewhat flawed.

In fact, the directive is so duff that Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Portugal haven’t even bothered implementing it yet and have been threatened with legal action.

In order for anti-spam legislation to work, all countries have to have compatible directives in place. Since there is a lot of money in spam for some regions, this is going to be difficult.

The study – available from 1 May

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Fraser Lovatt

Fraser Lovatt has spent the last fifteen years working in publishing, TV and the Internet in various capacities, and believes that they will be seperate platforms for at least a while yet. His main interests at the moment are exploring where Linux is taking home entertainment and how technology is conferring technical skills on more and more people. Fraser Lovatt was born in the same year that 2001: A Space Odyssey was delighting and confusing people in the cinemas, and developed a lifelong love of technology as soon as he realised that things could be taken apart, sometimes put back together again, but mostly left in bits or made into something the original designer hadn't quite planned upon. At school he was definitely in the ZX Spectrum/Magpie/BMX camp, rather than the BBC Micro/Blue Peter/well-behaved group. This is all deeply ironic as he later went on to spend nine years working at the BBC. After a few years of working as a bookseller in Scotland, ("Back when it was actually a skilled profession" he'll tell anyone still listening), he moved to England for reasons he can't quite explain adequately to himself. After a couple of publishing jobs punctuated by sporadic bursts of travelling and photography came the aforementioned nine years at the BBC where he specialised in internet technologies and video. These days his primary interests are Java, Linux, videogames and pies - and if they're not candidates for convergence, then what is?