17 July 2005

How many lives has spam cost?

Or, An Open Letter to Email Marketers

Spam” in this context is unsolicited commercial email (UCE). Spam uses up people’s lives. How?

Let’s say that a typical piece of spam takes round five seconds to identify and discard – some less, some more. Let’s also say that 90% of it gets eaten by spam filters or bounced for various reasons. Now say that you’ve just queued up one hundred million messages, a modest run by contemporary spammers’ standards. Ninety million of them get filtered or rejected, and ten million get delivered.

Those ten million messages take fifty million seconds for people to identify and discard. That’s about forty waking man-days, or seventy working days. Now say that you do one such run a day (again, very small bikkies for a spammer), Monday to Friday, every week. In just over a year, you’ve used up someone’s entire waking life from cradle to grave, or the entire working lives of two people.

If you did the same thing by overtly poisoning or murdering people, you would be arrested, tried, and put in jail (possibly executed) yourself. Why not for doing the same thing slowly?

What you are doing is not “making” money, it is stealing people’s lives away bit by bit and selling them. It is dishonest, it is intrusive, it is anti-social. Stop it now and do something useful instead.

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