The Internet industry met with direct marketers in London yesterday to tackle the growing problem of junk email, commonly known as spam.
The conference, hosted by the London Internet Exchange (Linx), brought together groups who are working individually to resolve the problem of what it calls unsolicited bulk messaging (UBM), and to co-ordinate plans and discuss possible solutions.
?Companies are now aware of each other so there is a good chance that they will put their heads together and co-operate to mutual benefit. That is the way the Internet works,? said Keith Mitchell, Linx chief executive.
Initial discussions began on a number of issues including regulation and self-regulation, and it was agreed that incentives are needed for companies to act responsibly as well as sanctions for those that don?t.
The conference highlighted conflicting views from the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) and the Internet industry. Traditional direct mail, as well as fax and telephone marketing works on an ?opt-out? basis, where consumers have to specifically request to be taken off lists.
While the DMA wants to extend this approach to email, the Internet industry, in particular, Linx, disagrees believing this approach is open to abuse. Instead it favours an ?opt-in? scheme where users will only be targeted for UBM if they specifically request it.
Mitchell said, ?The ?opt-out? model is just unworkable, it doesn?t scale. ?Opt-in? must be the way.? He added he is hopeful that there is still time for the UK to solve the problem before gets out of hand and should use the Data Protection Act as a basis.
The conference also debated the issue of traceability and Linx announced it is working on a Best Current Practice document, that although it was originally drawn up to address the problem of illegal content, it found that it is useful for tracking down all number of ?bad guys? from hackers and senders of spam.
With UBM estimated at costing UK businesses #5 billion a year, LINX is also working on a handbook for ISPs to include in new-user packs educating users on how to best to deal with UBM themselves so as to minimise wasted time and resources.
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