A few things happened this week in the fight against invasive marketing. Foremost is the announcement that the very first arrests under the federal CAN-SPAM act have been made. Arrest warrants were issued for four spammers in the Detroit area on the grounds that they sent fraudulent emails hawking weight loss pills, though two of them are still on the lam. Since the law was passed in January, I have yet to see any actual change in the spam I get. It still uses forged headers, rarely includes a business name and mailing address, and is always sent to harvested email addresses. Such activities are technically against federal law, but the spammers just don’t care. So now that the guv’mint is actually starting to enforce it, maybe, just maybe, things will slowly start to change. It’s worth noting that the FTC recieved over 10,000 complaints about this particular spam gang before actually doing anything.
Now Gator (I refuse to call them Claria) is under the gun again with the rehearing of a previously dismissed lawsuit. Some time ago L.L. Bean sent a nastygram to the Gator boys, ordering them to stop popping up competitor’s advertisements over the L.L. Bean website. The basis for that threat was trademark infringement, since Gator and their advertisers are hijacking Bean’s brand recognition for their own purposes. Just last month a German court decided Gator was breaking European law for doing the same thing, so maybe that decision (and Gator filing for an IPO) has prompted this renewed investigation into their sleazy business model. Let’s hope they hang.
Something else which is probably contributing to the rehearing of the Gator/Bean case is the recent FTC conference on spyware. No legislation has come out of it, but it’s certainly got some politicians thinking about the problem, to the point that a “firestorm” erupted when a few FTC bigwigs meekly suggested that the industry be allowed to self-regulate. Choice quote:
“You like this stuff? You’re the only person in this country that wants spyware on their computer,” Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, said to Beales. Referring to the rest of the panel, Barton added, “I would double down and bet that if asked whether they want to take it off, every one but you, sir, (would).”
No sane and sentient being could actually consider it “protected free trade” to hack into the computers of unsuspecting and misinformed innocents and proceed to carpet-bomb their screens with content against their wishes. As those innocents become more informed and more vocal in their complaints, the politicians will eventually be forced to do their jobs and protect our rights. Spread the word.