Wednesday, May 25, 2016

A Zero Tolerance Policy for Business Spam

In 2011 and 2012 I wrote about the increasing problem of Business Spam - unsolicited, unconsented advertising that has grown in volume to the point that it constitutes more than half of my email .    In 2016, I�ve done an experiment - I�ve not opted in to any newsletter, any website offering notifications or any vendor offering information.   I�ve monitored my mailbox for violators of good email practices.

This month, we put a stop to it - cold turkey.   Anyone sending business spam is now blocked from the 22,000 users of Beth Israel Deaconess and its affiliates.

Here�s how we did it - using a commercially available appliance we have black listed organizations which send bulk email and companies which violate unsolicitied email policies.

I realize there are many categories of activity going on here

1. Those who have my contact information for a legitimate business reason but sell that information without my consent.  Maybe there is something buried in a conference registration that suggests my information will be sold, but I�ve never found such a disclosure.

2.  Those who create mailing lists by guessing at email addresses.   John.halamka,  halamkaj, john_halamka, halamka.john are all guesses since I�ve never used such addresses on any materials.

3.  Those who facilitate bulk mailing.   I�ve had conversations with the management of companies that provide bulk mailing services such as newsletters/product updates/special deals.   Many of these bulk mailing companies have sound anti-spam policies.   However, they have to trust that organizations which use their services adhere to the policies, accepting attestation that consent/subscription has been obtained from receipients on mailing lists.   Many customers of bulk mailing outfits submit false attestations.    Remember, I�ve not opted into a single thing in 2016 and I�m receiving hundreds of bulk emails every day.

May of 2016 marks �email liberation� month at BIDMC, since  we put a stop to the electronic equivalent of garbage passing through our email gateways.   This Zero tolerance for bulk email approach may very well transform email into a once again useful medium for communication.   Sure, we�ll implement secure texting and groupware over the next year as alternatives to email, but there is a chance email could be salvaged.

My email box has gone from 1500 emails a day to 150.    If everyone does this, maybe the business spammers will stop their flood of unwanted communications.

Viva the email liberation!

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