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MPs demand tougher action on spam

Mike Simons

The Department of Trade and Industry should ban the sending of spam e-mail to business addresses and give the Information Commissioner tougher, more flexible powers, an all-party committee of MPs said yesterday.

In a powerful report, the All Party Parliamentary Internet Group (APIG) laid out a series of initiatives that could begin to control the deluge of unsolicited e-mail flooding businesses and consumers.

The MPs called on the government extend the ban on sending unsolicited e-mails to private e-mail addresses, which comes into effect in December, to business addresses also.

They said the DTI should show its "full and formal support" for properly operated blocklists - databases of known sources of spam. The committee said government should financially support "those blocklists that meet the highest standards and hence those that they would wish to see used by the public sector".

Spam accounts for up to 55% of all e-mail, with government itself hard hit, with 30% of e-mails received that are unwanted, according to security company MessageLabs.

Richard Allan MP, joint vice chairman of APIG, said: "If all the report's recommendations were implemented, then our constituents could expect to see a significant reduction in the amount of spam they receive."

Derek Wyatt MP, chairman of APIG, said the government initiative could spearhead co-ordinated global action. "I hope that this report can help build international support for both legislative and technical measures to deal with spam," he said.

Next week Wyatt and other members of the committee will join e-envoy Andrew Pinder on a visit to the US Congress to discuss the issue.

APIG is urging the US and Australian governments to adopt anti-spam legislation that is closely aligned to the European Directive on Privacy and Electronic Communications and called on the OECD push for consistent anti-spam legislation on a global basis.

Matt Sergeant, senior anti-spam technologist at MessageLabs, described the APIG report as "a wonderful step forward for UK business. Without a strong legal position on spam the problem will continue to grow and will keep costing UK businesses billions every year".

Alyn Hockey, director of research at e-mail security company Clearswift, warned that waiting until the World Spam Summit in October 2004, is a year too late. "We need action now," he said.


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