Monday 30 April 2012

Stuffed with spam

Has anyone else noticed that they are receiving more SMS SPAM these days?

Today, someone at +44 7541 686931 wrote “Due to new legislation, those struggling with debt can now apply to have it written off. For more information next the word ‘INFO’ or to opt out text stop."

Yesterday, what I took to be a claims management service on +1 (813) 384-7716 sent me a message that I’ve already deleted from my device.

Also yesterday, +44 786 306801 texted “FREEMSG: Need a quick end of month emergency Payday topUp? Get upto £750 TODAY!! No Docs or Checks Regd at SMSFORLOANS.COM Reply STOP to stop.”

While on Saturday, +44 7503 441947 texted “Hi. Want the latest iphone or smart mobile but can’t get a contract? Whatever your status we can help! NEWMOBILES.COM reply STOP to stop offers.”

I have not replied to any of these messages. I'm torn. The usual line is that we should say reply "stop" because if we don't, then the miscreant could well argue that the user has implicitly consented to receiving more messages by not having bothered to object when the option was offered to them.

On the other hand, replying "stop" could improve the utility of the marketing list, as the miscreants will know that the end user exists and cares sufficiently to react to messages. So they might react more positively to the next SPAM message.

So what’s happening at the moment? Have I made my way onto some suckers list, or has my provider slipped up by allowing some gungy marketing companies to send spam to its customers? Or, more likely (given that I know a thing or two about how these cowboys operate), has another communications service provider slipped up by failing to stop messages like these from being generated on their network?

The blame should fairly and squarely fall on the communication service provider that is being paid by the actual gungy marketing company to send spam to its customers. It’s much harder for the networks that are simply told to deliver SMS messages to intercept the content of the message and decide if it’s the sort that their customers would be likely to have consented to receiving. No provider really wants to get too close to being accused of intercepting messages and reading their content. That’s really not a very British thing to do.

Ironically, I’ve been working with a bunch of dedicated people from the enforcement end of the spectrum and am privy to some of their cunning plans to reduce this type of awful behaviour. But I do groan when I get this messages, as I appreciate that, despite the herculean efforts of a few, some of these cowboys are still roaming free. But rest assured everyone. An SMS posse is tracking them down. This group is not armed with Smith & Weston revolvers, but I guess it’s got come mighty clever IT tools to spot the bad guys - and perhaps video cameras so that the highlights of the raids can be posted on You Tube.

A recent favourite video site of mine is the I dare you – watch it and fight away those tears as (mostly American) families are filmed reacting with unrestrained joy as they see their sons, daughters, fathers and mothers coming home safely from conflict zones. The website celebrates some amazing military homecoming reunions. Take a squint at the videos of members of our armed forces returning home to surprise their families & friends. There’s even a special page dedicated to the reactions of the soldier’s dogs when they are reunited with their owners.

And if we can see those people expressing so much pleasure when they are reunited with family members who have literally put their lives on the line for many months, I’m sure that, if we ask nicely, data protection laws will eventually allow us to see the surprise on the faces of those cowboys who are raided at unearthly hours in the morning (ie before 10.00am) when they are reunited with the ICO’s enforcers.

The usual prize will be awarded to the person who can think of the best name for such a website to post such videos. I would go for “”.