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Spam May Be Driving Shoppers Away From Internet

From Reuters

The exponential growth of unsolicited junk e-mail -- better known as spam -- is shaking consumer confidence in the Internet and may hamper growth of the online economy, according to officials gathered Monday at a global anti-spam meeting.

A survey published by the Trans-Atlantic Consumer Dialogue, a consumer group, showed that 52% of respondents were shopping less on the Internet or not at all because of concerns about receiving unsolicited junk e-mail.

“It is very clear that the majority of citizens are very troubled by unsolicited commercial e-mails,” said the survey, which was released at a global anti-spam meeting led by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

“It is also very clear that bona fide businesses are losing money because the disreputable image of spam is making consumers uneasy about engaging in e-commerce,” the survey said.

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Data from anti-spam software company Brightmail Inc. of San Francisco showed that spam accounts for half of all e-mail traffic. Filtering and clearing up e-mail inboxes is a rising cost for business and consumers.

Only 17% of the 20,000 respondents to the consumer group’s survey said they thought their spam filters worked well. Another 21% did not even know whether their e-mail program had a filter.

An overwhelming majority of those surveyed said they either hated or were annoyed by unsolicited junk e-mails and wanted them to be banned.

“If you continue at this pace, in five years from now I do not think the Internet will be very popular,” said Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington.

The OECD is calling for governments to pool resources to tackle the scourge of nuisance offers of sex aids and cheap loans. The e-mails also can be used to spread malicious viruses.

The problem costs European Union and U.S. companies more than $11.5 billion a year in lost time and productivity, according to the American Chamber of Commerce to the EU. The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development estimates that the global economic cost could reach $20 billion.

Governments are trying to tackle the problem through a mixture of regulations, codes of conduct for business and advanced technical solutions.

“Most governments do view the Internet as a key to the global economy,” said Peter Ferguson, chairman of the OECD working party on information security and privacy. “Spam has certainly the capacity to interfere with that.”


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