Real impacts of spam
I don’t talk about it very often, but there are some real consequences to even the existence of spam. All the way back in 2004, the FTC mentioned it as a driver in address churn*(Federal Trade Commission 2004). Of course, wanted messages get lost. Finally, we can blame the mere existence of spam for the existence of spam filters.
Some of all of that comes into play in this Washington story (Associated Press 2018).
Every once in a while you’ll see one of these “the spam filter ate your email” cases come along. Most often, it happens because an attorney missed a deadline because their spam filter deleted a notification concerning upcoming deadlines or a court hearing setting. Those never end well for the attorney using the spam filter. And, it doesn’t really end well for the Mount Vernon School District here.
The backstory is that someone sent an open records request to the school superintendent. I presume that was the proper person to receive the request as that part doesn’t seem to be at issue. But, the request “was sent to an old email address for [the superintendent], and was rerouted to the district’s spam folder.”
So, as I’m looking at this, I am somewhat doubtful that the district’s superintendent just decided that he didn’t like his address and switched it. Something prompted that and I wouldn’t be shocked if it weren’t due to incoming spam. Additionally, the district’s spam filter caught the message (so it appears that someone was still monitoring the old address). Both of those things had an end result of the school district not responding to a message that no one appears to have known that they had received until the time to respond had expired.
The result of all of this? The taxpayers of that district are paying someone $12,500 — because a spam filter caught a message.
- *A RoperASW study commissioned by Bigfoot Interactive in November 2003 found that 11 percent of adults had switched their ISPs or email service providers within a six-month period. The DMA estimates the churn rate for email addresses to be 32 percent. Consumers abandoning email addresses clogged with spam undoubtedly contribute significantly to the churn rate. (citations omitted)
- Associated Press. 2018. “Mount Vernon School District Settles Public Records Lawsuit.” KOMO News. February 20, 2018. https://komonews.com/news/local/mount-vernon-school-district-settles-public-records-lawsuit.
- Federal Trade Commission. 2004. “National Do Not Email Registry: A Report to Congress.” PDF document. Federal Trade Commission. https://www.ftc.gov/sites/default/files/documents/reports/can-spam-act-2003-national-do-not-email-registy-federal-trade-commission-report-congress/report.pdf.