NZ anti-spam law

It is great the Government has announced the details of the proposed anti-spam law, and I am looking forward to seeing the actual legislation.

For those who don’t know, I chair InternetNZ’s anti-spam taskforce and have worked very closely with the Government on the proposed law. On the basis of the announcement, it looks like the legislation will be similiar to Australia’s. This is a good thing, as world-wide Australia is generally regarded as having the best law, and also the most effective as locally sourced spam in Australia has almost disappeared.

People should be aware that no-one who is involved in fighting spam thinks legislation by itself will reduce spam. How-ever almost every expert agrees that legislation is a necessary part of a multi-pronged approach which includes education, technical filters, self-regulation and international co-operation.

Very little spam in NZ is sent locally because NZ ISPs are generally excellent in kicking off spammers. However this does not mean NZ is not a source of spam. There are a growing number of NZers who are majorly involved in spamming, and they hire people in the US to do the actual sending for them. At present they are immune from legal action.

The other important aspect of the legislation is that spam is an international problem, and only by way of legislation can we authorise international co-operation to catch the biggest spammers. At an OECD workshop on spam I attended, the US FTC spoke about how they sometimes need to execute within a week or so up to 14 search warrants in half a dozen different countries as one tries to trace the e-mail source, the website host, the domain name registration and the credit card bank account.

By being able to co-operate with the US FTC, and other countries, we will be able to play a party in closing down the major spammers who do spend most of the spam to NZers. We are almost the last country in the OECD to have anti-spam legislation.

Rodney thinks the law is pointless. I hope he will be open to persuasion once we see the actual bill. The law will not stop spam by itself, but without such laws and enforcement actions around the world, we will never reduce the impact of spam from the $25 billion global cost it currently is.

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