Junk e-mail is unsolicited e-mail (i.e. you didn't ask to receive it)
that wants to sell you something. Junk e-mail is often sent as "spam"
- a single e-mail message broadcast to hundreds or thousands of unknowing
recipients - and is also usually "anonymous" in that you cannot write back to the address
that is listed as the sender of the message. Junk e-mail is a cheap and easy way for a
tiny (or stupid) company or scammer/con artist to try and drum up some business. I don't
know if any studies have been done on the rate of return on junk e-mail, but I can't believe
it's very high - most people find advertisement e-mail annoying (at the very least), and
with the huge number of online scams going around people are (wisely) not even paying attention
to such messages.
Why is junk e-mail bad?
- It is an intrusion. You
went to the trouble of getting an e-mail account and learning how to use e-mail, and you're
probably paying a monthly (if not hourly) fee for the privilege of getting e-mail. Now,
in addition to messages from your friends, relatives, and possibly your place of work, you
keep getting bothered with dumb little messages trying to sell you "E-Z" credit or "live
online video porn" for only $5 a minute. Do you like it when telephone salespeople call you
at your home? Why should you feel any different about junk e-mail? Someone is contacting
you and DEMANDING your immediate attention while trying to sell you something you don't want.
- Every piece of junk e-mail costs you. Either directly or indirectly, you are paying for
every junk e-mail message you get. If you pay for your Internet or online service per minute
or per hour, then the minute (or more) you take to look at each junk e-mail message is coming
directly out of your pocket. Even though it may figure out to only be pennies per message,
if you receive enough junk e-mail it will start to add up. Nobody is going to go broke because
of junk e-mail, but you shouldn't have to pay for the "privilege" of reading it and throwing it
away. Indirectly, junk e-mail (and especially spam) costs us all in terms of higher costs
for Internet/online access. The more junk e-mail that gets sent, the more time and space it
takes on a service provider's network, and the more Internet traffic it creates. In the extreme
case, service providers will have to buy larger storage and faster computers to keep up with the
flow of unwanted e-mail into their system, and the Internet, already suffering from overuse,
will just get slower, costing millions (or even billions) of dollars to upgrade (else be
stuck with slow networks). Could this actually happen? It seems unlikely, but if junk e-mail
is not dealt with before it becomes a really big problem, I think that the Internet
could run into a scenario like this, with hundreds of unregulated "spammers" blasting out
millions of junk e-mail messages a day.
- Other people are making money off of your e-mail address. You paid for it, so why shouldn't
you have some kind of control over it? I don't know how much a list of e-mail addresses costs,
but it seems to be enough to be keeping several companies in business. I had an internal
business e-mail address that was also capable of sending and receiving Internet e-mail. One
day I used that address to write to a company that sent me junk e-mail and complain.
The very next day I received junk e-mail at that address from a completely different
company. I cannot prove that my address had been sold, but that seems like the most
reasonable explanation to me, given the circumstances.
- E-mail should not be an advertising medium. If this goes on unchecked, will you
eventually get as many junk e-mail messages as pieces of junk mail? Every day I get
between 1 and 7 different flyers, bulk-mail advertisements, credit-card applications, etc.,
in my (postal) mailbox. If I started getting that kind of deluge in my e-mailbox, checking my
e-mail (and deleting junk e-mail) might become a full-time (and unpaid) job. Given the
proliferation of junk postal mail, it seems reasonable to imagine that junk e-mail will
go the same route or even worse, since it is significantly cheaper to
e-mail a thousand people (I could do it for free from any of my e-mail accounts) than to mail
- There is no organized way to complain/report junk e-mail abuse. You can't call the police,
you can't call the Better Business Bureau, you can't call the phone company, and most of the
time you can't even contact whoever sent you the junk e-mail because they hide their address
(ironic, isn't it?). If your child has their own e-mail address, there is nothing to stop
pornography or other companies from sending ads directly to them, and nobody you can contact
to complain. How scary is that?