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Dear Ethix – Issue 36

Managing Spam

As a heavy email user, I am sometimes overwhelmed by the volume and content of spam I get.

I, too, had thought of the idea of charging for each email (as suggested by Bill Gates in Technology Watch, Issue 35). The way I thought about implementing this was through the service provider. The service provider would charge a minimal fee for the basic connection and web access. Email would not be free but would be paid for on a per email basis. They could even adjust the charges based on size of email. I am not sure how billing would be worked out between sending and receiving, but I believe the cell phone operators already have a model that works for sending text messages and email via cell phones.

Further, every customer could set up a trusted network of contacts whose emails would automatically get through. Any unknown contact would be filtered at the service provider level and would be asked to pay for final delivery. In order to pay for the email transmission, the sender would have to register and provide a payment method, thereby providing an electronic record of who the sender was.

Maybe like the Verizon cellular network, providers would allow unlimited email between in-network users—like internal emails within a company. Emails that traveled between different service provider networks would carry a charge and would require validations, etc.

This model does several things:

  1. It helps combat spam (there would still be spam just like there is still direct mail but there would be less of it)
  2. It helps build in a pricing model for use of the Internet (pay for what you use) thereby helping to deal with traffic
  3. It helps provide mechanisms for tracing “spoofers” and spammers by requiring verification of sender and payment method.

I am sure there are some huge headaches and problems with this model, but spam isn’t something that technology alone can handle. The primary problem is that sending email is just too inexpensive. If we want to keep email essentially free, then we are going to have to put up with spam because the spammers will stay one step ahead of the technology. As the saying goes, “There is no such thing as a free lunch.” Our “free” email comes at the price of a lot of spam … my 2 cents ….

Ethan Bell
Seattle, WA

Recycling Computers

I’m not sure how much you have delved into the technology disposal issue, but there are two main issues that relate directly to your magazine. The first is data erasure. With HIPAA and Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, corporations must carefully manage how data is handled when equipment is retired. Often times, the easiest route is to ask a re-marketing/recycling company to do it for you. This helps ensure a system-wide standard, and can easily be integrated into other end-of-life disposal options.

The second issue is recycling. This is usually the last thing on the mind of an IT manager who has to worry about multi-million dollar issues on a daily basis. But it can be one that impacts the brand-name of a business, and also its bottom line. I’d suggest you visit the following web site: www.ban.org. It has some pretty graphic footage of how equipment is handled in third world countries. It also contains a “Recycler’s Pledge” that has been signed by 20 of the 400 recyclers in North America today. The pledge sets some standards for recycler’s — standards yet to be set by most governing bodies. Another good site is www.federalelectronicschallenge.net. Put together by the EPA and some other partners, it offers some “best practices.”

Ryan Laber
Asset Recovery Corp
St. Paul, MN

Globalization

The conversation with Professor Prabhu Guptara on globalization was a particularly enlightening article.

Professor Guptara’s comments “In today’s world … be global in your way of thinking,” and “The tendency of present structures is to deal with problems only to the extent that they are of national interest,” provide an interesting dichotomy. The European Union now has 25 member countries many of whom—the UK being one significant participant—are still wrestling with “nationalism” and protection thereof.

Much of this was the theme of the presentation by Brad Smith, General Counsel, Microsoft, in his presentation to the joint European Chambers of Commerce a couple of weeks ago. Brad believes the EU is still fragmented by language barriers, decision making, and law and the USA is equally divided by a Trade/Commerce department trying to protect the interest of the 50 States—hence the reference to the “Trans-Atlantic Divide.”

David Bowden
San Francisco, CA

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