Some real data on spam

The Center for Democracy and Technology has completed a controlled experiment in email address acquisition and use in unsolicited commercial emails (UCE). The methodology was simply to post new email addresses in a number of different public locations, and see how much spam each of these addesses receives. Their report, titled “Why Am I Getting All This Spam?” comes to a number of interesting conclusions:

  • Every public, plaintext email address recieves some spam. The number of messages is correlated with the popularity of the site.
  • Obscured addresses (either as human readable or HTML-obscured) receives absolutely no spam
  • Removing a plaintext address from the web significantly reduces the number of spam emails that address receives

Some of the non-web methods of acquisition might not have been as noticeable due to the short period of study (6 months).

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