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Users want to can spam with national registry

A new study shows that people want the government to deal with spam the same way it's dealing with annoying telemarketing calls.

Newly released survey results show e-mail users overwhelmingly support a national "do not spam list," fueling one politician's efforts to spearhead such a registry.

The survey, conducted by the ePrivacy Group and the Ponemon Institute, was released at a press conference Wednesday in Washington, D.C. The press conference was attended by U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), among others.

Schumer has introduced a bill that would create a "do not spam" list, similar to the wildly popular "do not call" list administered by the Federal Trade Commission to limit telemarketing.

Seventy-four percent of those responding to the survey said they support the list idea. Overall, the research found that people consider spam just as annoying as telemarketing calls.

Over half said they thought spammers should be punished but were split on how to mete out justice. They favored consumer lawsuits and federal legislation rather than action from law enforcement and state prosecutors.

Technically, a do not spam list would be quite challenging. Unlike with telephone calls, it's hard to ascertain an e-mail's origin, especially if the sender uses open relays and a spoofed e-mail address. Plus, it's not cost prohibitive to spam if the mass mailer uses foreign servers, which may let a sender skirt American laws.

"The support for a federal no-spam list is strong enough that I don't think the public is going to be sympathetic to claims that it is hard to do," Schumer said in a statement released Wednesday. "Americans want a solution to the spam plague that has teeth. They don't want a halfway measure that fails to do something."

Spam is clearly an issue for the 1,181 who completed the study. About 47% estimated that spam accounts for between a quarter and one half of the e-mail they receive. Only 19% said that less than 10% of their e-mail is spam.

Unsolicited e-mail is also a time drain. About a third of respondents said they spend between 10 and 30 minutes a day dealing with it. Thirty two percent said they waste between 30 minutes and an hour on spam.

It's not surprising that spam is a major issue, but what is interesting is the line people draw when judging a message as spam versus legitimate e-mail. For example, only 4% of respondents said they consider e-mail from companies they do business with to be spam. "It's interesting, as it shows spam is not only about permission but about relationships [with senders]," said Vincent Schiavone, president and CEO of ePrivacy Group.

By contrast, 74% said that unsolicited e-mail that contains adult content is spam. Just over half define advertisements from unknown companies as spam.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: news exclusive: "Could a 'do not spam' list really stop spammers?" news exclusive, "In the spammer's lair"

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