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avoiding spam

project: spamtrack
Friday, March 15th, 2003

The amount of spam I receive on a daily basis has finally exceeded my patience. Since the Internet first started becoming commercial, I have been very careful about giving out my e-mail address. However, even my most carefully protected addresses now receive more spam than I can tolerate. In particular, I have one e-mail forwarding address that I specifically gave only to friends and to important e-commerce sites - because the forwarding feature would allow continued contact with these entities even as I move and change e-mail providers. I firmly believe that some (many?) companies stretch or violate their own privacy policies with no regard for the impact on their customers.

Today I initiate project: spamtrack. The goal is to monitor these companies adherence to their privacy policies to determine which companies are selling my e-mail address and to whom it is being sold.

First, it is important to recognize that there are many way that spammers get e-mail addresses:

  • your ISP - many ISPs and e-mail providers sell your address as soon as you sign up.
  • websites - when you signup with a website and give them your address, they may sell it.
  • vendors - any company that you purchase something from might sell your address.
  • harvesting - many companies scan websites, mailing lists and newsgroups looking for e-mail addresses.

The methodology for tracking and measuring is obviously important here. After all, we all receive so much spam, how could I possibly figure out who sold my address? For those who are interested, the process is described on the tracking page.