Tells Congress it needs MORE POWER:
- The Federal Trade Commission asked Congress yesterday for broader powers to attack the rapidly growing problem of spam, which new studies show accounts for half of all e-mail traffic.
In joint testimony, Chairman Timothy J. Muris and the four other commissioners told House and Senate committees that the FTC needs more authority to track spammers across borders and to do so in secrecy for limited periods so that spammers do not shut down operations before investigations bear fruit.
The FTC witnesses called on Congress to outlaw tactics frequently used by spammers, such as disguising the origin of junk e-mail, using deceptive subject lines and refusing to honor requests from computer users to stop getting unsolicited e-mail.
“Spam is about to kill the ‘killer app’ of the Internet — specifically, consumer use of e-mail and e-commerce,” Commissioner Orson Swindle testified in a prepared statement. [Washington Post]
if that isn’t a name for public service, I don’t know what is. Of the many bills pending, most don’t go far enough according to consumer advocates:
- Consumer groups and anti-spam tracking organizations argue that most of the bills introduced so far fall short because they fail to prevent unwanted e-mail from any source, including marketers that are not peddling pornography or scams.
Large e-mail account providers such as America Online, Yahoo and Microsoft Corp.’s MSN, which market to their members, support the Burns-Wyden bill and have developed extensive e-mail filtering systems for their users.
The direct-marketing lobby also supports legislation aimed at purveyors of pornography, scams and deceptive e-mail.
But Swindle said industry should do more.
“Frankly, I am not convinced that industry really wants to empower consumers by giving them easy-to-use tools to control their incoming e-mail,” he said in his statement.
Cynthia Webb presents other views:
- Lawmakers who heard the FTC’s testimony yesterday were more than happy to get onboard the anti-spam campaign. CNET’s News.co reported that Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), “who has co-sponsored a different antispam bill, called spam a ‘scourge’ that is ‘threatening to poison the medium’ and urged the FTC to be aggressive in wielding whatever new powers it receives. Wyden predicted a committee vote on his antispam proposal, co-sponsored with Conrad Burns, (R-MT), next week.” According to The Washington Post, FTC Commissioner Orson Swindle said the agency has not endorsed any particular spam bill in Congress, but he conceded that the FTC’s proposed anti-spam effort most resembles the Wyden-Burns bill. The Post also noted that “[l]arge e-mail account providers such as America Online, Yahoo and Microsoft Corp.’s MSN, which market to their members, support the Burns-Wyden bill and have developed extensive e-mail filtering systems for their users.”
….Of course, the FTC’s proposal has already drawn fire from critics. “Privacy groups have raised concerns about the FTC’s plan, saying it does not contain sufficient checks and balances. Marc Rotenberg, director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, testified that ‘the legislation opens the door to abuse in that it creates new enforcement authority without corresponding safeguards … The bill should be drafted in such a way so as to safeguard American values, including procedural fairness, privacy protection and open government,'” News.com recounted. CNET said the FTC’s wish list for Congress “would basically turn the agency’s investigators into spam cops. They would receive the power to serve secret requests to Internet service providers for subscriber information, peruse FBI criminal databases and swap sensitive information with foreign law enforcement agencies.”