MPs to meet with US lawmakers over spam

As part of an assault on unsolicited commercial e-mail, a delegation of MPs will go to Washington, DC next month in an effort to...

A delegation of MPs will go to Washington, DC next month in an effort to persuade US lawmakers to take a tough "opt-in" approach to spam.

E-envoy Andrew Pinder will join members of the All-Party Parliamentary Internet Group (APIG), including Derek Wyatt MP, Brian White MP and Andrew Miller MP, for meetings in October with senators and other lawmakers.

European regulators have moved to adopt opt-in anti-spam rules that prohibit e-mail marketers from sending promotions to individuals without their prior consent.

Lawmakers in the US have expressed a preference for the "opt-out" method where the onus is put on individual users to let companies know that they do not wish to receive spam.

But last month, the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) chairman Timothy Muris warned that pending anti-spam legislation would be unlikely to stem the flow of unwanted e-mail.

Last week, the UK Department of Trade and Industry outlined a new directive scheduled to take effect on 11 December. Under the directive, which updates the existing Telecoms Data Protection Directive, companies and individuals could be fined up to £5,000 for sending unsolicited commercial e-mail and SMS text messages to mobile phones without prior agreement.

But the anti-spam law has already been heavily criticised by anti-spam groups such as the Spamhaus Project, claiming the law does not go far enough to protect businesses as well as individual e-mail users.

There is also the additional problem of tracking down and imposing fines on those sending spam from outside of the UK, an endeavour made that much more difficult if the US protects those same people with opt-out anti-spam laws.

"As 90% of all spamming e-mails originate in the US, we must try and persuade our political colleagues in Washington that their existing 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," Wyatt said.

But if similar meetings held last July between US legislators and European Parliament members are anything to go by, Wyatt and his colleagues may face polite but strong resistance to the notion of opt-in.

Erika Mann, a German member of the European Parliament and chairwoman of the European Internet Foundation, said after the July meetings that she believed the US and EU would strike an agreement to prosecute spammers across international borders, but any solid agreements have yet to materialise.

Laura Rohde writes for IDG News Service


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