New European and US legislation is so far failing to stem the increasing tide of spam that companies must deal with, with some industry experts claiming the laws will precipitate an increase in junk mail.
The European Privacy and Communications Directive came into effect on 11 December, but in the same month the UK became one of the worst offenders for sending unsolicited email, according to rankings compiled by anti-spam organisation Spamhaus.
The US Can Spam Act became law on 1 January, but US email security company Postini saw the proportion of spam rise from 74 per cent in December to 84 per cent within the first couple of days of the new year.
Meanwhile AOL said it blocked nearly 500 billion spam messages in 2003, but Spamhaus founder Steve Linford warned that junk mail will increase in 2004 and blamed the new legislation, which is "full of loopholes".
"The UK directive is effectively useless as it will do nothing to stop spam to companies," he said.
"Because it will take the Information Commissioner at least 80 days to force a spammer to take an individual off his list before a £5,000 fine can be levied, this has actively encouraged more spammers to set up in the UK who will target businesses as well."
US spammers have already set up hundreds of new companies to comply with the basic requirements of the Can Spam Act, he added.
"Although Can Spam has some good points, such as the legal penalties against spammers, it basically says spammers can spam.
"Because the law is opt-out, spammers are already talking about suing Spamhaus and Internet Service Providers for blocking and filtering their emails," he said.
Jamie Cowper, senior technical consultant at messaging company Mirapoint, warned that, because the US legislation allows US companies to use spam as a marketing tool, their incentive to do so will be enormous.
"The majority of UK junk email already originates in the US, and now, thanks to the Can Spam Act, we can expect nothing short of an avalanche of unwanted email in the new year," he said in a statement.
According to Postini, with spam expected to account for around 70 per cent of all email by the early summer, IT managers will have to implement much more restrictive usage policies for employees' email in an effort to reduce the burden of spam.
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