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New measures against mobile spammers
Tuesday, November 06 2001
by Stan Van Haasteren

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Japanese company NTT DoCoMo has announced a new set of countermeasures aimed to block junk mail from reaching e-mail accounts on its customers' mobile phones.

Tens of thousands of users of DoCoMo's i-mode service, which allows users to surf the Web and send and receive e-mails over their mobile phones, have complained that they are being flooded with unwanted e-mail, also known as spam.

DoCoMo says in total its customers receive around 950 million e-mails daily, but some 800 million of these have to be returned to the senders because the addresses are unknown. This puts a huge strain on DoCoMo's servers.

To eliminate the heavy burden of spam, DoCoMo will begin blocking any e-mail sent to a large number of invalid e-mail addresses. Presently many spammers send e-mails in huge numbers to addresses generated by a computer. Valid addresses are accumulated through a process of elimination, since all invalid addresses will be taken from the list after they receive a 'user unknown message.' DoCoMo's new system will prevent spammers from doing this, the company said.

DoCoMo furthermore announced it would enable and encourage users to keep changing their e-mail addresses in order to make it harder for spammers to make a list of valid e-mail addresses. The company also announced it will sue alleged spammers. It already won a case on 29 October against a Yokohama based company that had sent a huge amount of junk mails to invalid addresses.

DoCoMo's anti-spam procedures have been applauded by many in the industry. "The percentage of people receiving e-mails on their mobile is still very low," said Andrew O'Shaughnessy, chairman of the Irish Internet Association (IIA). "But potentially this can become a much bigger problem than receiving spam on your PC or laptop. It takes longer and it is more expensive to download an e-mail on a mobile," he added.

"I also think that the perception is that mobiles are more private than PC's for example. So people are even more annoyed when they receive spam on their mobile," said O'Shaughnessy, who also heads the Irish e-mail directory and services company, E-Search.

According to the IIA chairman the problem of junk mail is not getting worse in Ireland. "Very few people read spam and because of that junk mail is getting less and less effective. Companies even realise that it reflects badly on them if they keep sending e-mails without permission."

The Irish Internet Association encourages companies to only send out permission based marketing material.

Currently the Irish government is working on anti-spam legislation that will be based on a European Union directive. "We think [the government] should prohibit any non-permission based marketing e-mail campaigns. Another option is that companies will be obliged to take people off their mailing list once they have requested that," said O'Shaughnessy.

For more information: http://www.iia.ie, http://www.nttdocomo.com.

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