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Re: Proposed EU Directive on Electronic Commerce

  • To: Dave Wilson < >
  • From: Ragnar Lonn < >
  • Date: Tue, 19 Jan 1999 18:34:54 +0100 (MET)

On Tue, 19 Jan 1999, Dave Wilson wrote:

> A legal requirement to label spam suffers from the same problems as any global
> labelling system. The primary problem is that global tastes are way too
> diverse for a global system. What causes outcries in the U.S. doesn't bat
> eyelids in Japan, and vice versa => no middle ground. What global body would
> administer the categories? What court would have final say on a particular
> categorisation?

Yeah, there are lots of difficulties involved. That's for sure. I was
thinking more of a completely unregulated system of keywords where the
advertisers would just have to use their imagination to come up with
a select few good keywords that described their product. The user
would of course have to guess what keywords the advertiser uses but such
guesses could be made a lot easier by people putting up lists of useful
keywords to use for various things you might want advertisements about.
I'd bet advertisers would probably, if they're smart, band together and
decide on some common sets of keywords to use which would then be posted
everywhere for the users to browse. Let's not forget, also, that this
isn't an ethics-based categorization but a content-based one. A car is a
car, whatever your sexual morals are (hey, that's a rhyme). So a car
advertisement would likely include the  keyword "car", which I think is
something most nations could agree on, even within the EC :-)

Anyhow, as you yourself stated, there's no harm making the use of
keywords possible in the spec. If they are useful in reality, however,
remains to be seen.

> There's more. In order to reduce the biggest problem - threat to our servers -
> the accept/reject must be pushed as close to the source as possible. At the
> client end is useless. But added complexity in the decision process,
> user-configurable I might add, will not sit well in our MTAs.

Yeah, that's a problem. As an ISP, you don't have to implement
user-configurable reception of UCE possible, of course, if you feel
it's not worth the trouble. As for the threat to the servers, the
X-UCE header gives us the ability to keep down disk usage (as UCE
messages can be thrown away directly after reception), if not CPU
overhead. The CPU (and bandwidth, but I think that's a smaller problem
for most) usage can be kept down by implementing the changes to the
negotiation phase that we've been talking about here but those changes
needn't be specified in the law. If the header exists we can enforce
the changes to the (E)SMTP negotiation ourselves.

> If one really wishes to receive updates on a particular subject, there are 
> many, many better directories and opt-in lists that are much more reliable,
> with a much finer granularity, than any massmail categorisation system. This
> isn't a cop out. Mass mail has its place. Even targeted mass mail is a
> sensible concept. But it is not up to us, and our busy servers, to do that
> targeting.

I agree :-)

> Negotiating the preferences of the user is a duty that must directly involve
> the sender of the message. This is a duty that mass mail of any kind has never
> really chosen to accept; email more so than any other. It would be a mistake
> for ISPs to offer to accept this responsibility instead - and even if we did, I
> doubt the offer would be accepted in any other than the most cynical manner.

That's a point. Why should we accept all the work when it should be placed
on the shoulders of the spammers/advertisers by principle?  I myself think
we're more or less stuck with doing other people's work and that all of
this is really just damage control. But I might be wrong, of course.


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