Does your mail provider really want to eliminate SPAM?

I’ve been actively working to stop SPAM (that’s also known as UCE – Unsolicited Commercial Email) for a very long time, and it’s great to see how many of the “free” email providers talk about preventing SPAM and provide users with filters to prevent SPAM from reaching their inbox.

But, the bottom line is, that unless you actively report SPAMmers nothing will ever really change.

Some providers (very few) actually will generate automated SPAM reports for you [that’s great, more email providers should make it that easy]; however, most will do nothing more than use an email that you mark as SPAM to refine their filters [which might prevent you from seeing the SPAM, but it doesn’t stop the SPAMmer].

The really interesting thing is that many of the “free” email providers actually inhibit you from reporting SPAM by preventing you from accessing the “raw message” (you need all the headers and the body of the email to file an abuse report with most carriers).  What’s really funny is that some of the providers who are most vocal have actually changed their web-mail interfaces to prevent you from accessing the raw message [essentially insuring that you cannot take action against a SPAMmer].

Now if you can access you email via POP3 or IMAP4 or load it into an email client using a proprietary connector (well, at least the only ones I could test) you can access the raw message and file a report; but remember, many of the free email providers don’t give you that type of access to your email unless you pay them.

What a great message… it’s OK to SPAM free email subscribers because they can’t do anything about it!

I’m not going to provide an extensive list of those providers that do and do not actually enable you to report SPAM; I’ll just mention that Yahoo! (one of the largest free email providers, but waning) doesn’t allow free subscribers to access raw message (or if they do, I certainly couldn’t figure out how); and of course Google (GMail) and Microsoft (MSN/HotMail/Live/Bing) do allow access.

One other thing to keep in mind… there’s no such thing as free email — you’re paying for it some how some way.

Originally posted 2009-08-17 01:00:04.