21st Century Opt-out

If you thought that enforcing the European ‘Opt-in’ requirement for on-line, commercial advertising was going to have any real impact on the size of your morning inbox, then you’re probably wrong.

Last week, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) came down hard on our domestic ‘advertisers’, by the requiring "explicit consent" of consumers in advance of using their email or telephone addresses for direct marketing. In other words, if you happen to be spammed, as I was today, by an estate agent in Manhattan, you can complain to the ASA, right? I think you see what I mean.

I don’t know anyone who has ever freely opted-in to anything on the Internet but then, many of us appear to be customers of ‘Roebuck Electronique’ Ltd in Glossop, who offer “Energy Efficient lighting” or German company ‘Settec’, who offer a “Training Course” on “The Egyptian Customs Law and the latest amendments”; just what you were looking for I’m sure.

Now Roebuck in Glossop are ‘bang to rights’ under the European Legislation and so of course are Settec but the man offering me office space in Manhattan or Mr Wei Lin, who wishes to sell me motorcycles; ”We fetch your name through our Internet”, aren’t likely to be worried by the ASA.

While it’s good to have another sanction to use against the growing tide of unsolicited email, I doubt that the ASA will be able to cope without expanding its enforcement unit to size approaching that of Chinese Army, which by a coincidence of geography, much of the Spam comes from; being routed outside countries like the USA via Korea or China.

For every piece of domestic spam, there are ten more useless offers from outside the UK and Europe and while enforcing the regulations here, with an ‘outing’ and a few heavy fines will help, it’s the equivalent of King Canute ordering the tide to retreat.

Spam is, I’m afraid an undeniable part of our 21st century existence. With the arrival of Instant Messaging and more powerful personal communications devices and without strong international legislation, it’s going to be very difficult to prevent commercial interests from becomingly increasingly and persistently intrusive in a world that may soon evolve to mirror the attention-seeking shopping mall in the film Minority Report.


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