September 17, 2004, 12:00 AM

Spam-fighting info will need to come from the inside, FTC concludes

The FTC argues that if law enforcement officials are going to be effective in stopping spam, they will need the help of insiders to provide them with information about those who break the law. But that cooperation could cost $100,000 or more.


The FTC has concluded that a reward system designed to generate information from the public about incidents of spam could improve the effectiveness of enforcing anti-spam legislation passed earlier this year. But not just anybody is likely to be successful in providing information, the FTC says.

In a report just released that will advise Congress on enforcing its anti-spam legislation, the FTC concludes that the persons most likely to identify spammers and provide useful evidence would be insiders or personal or business associates of the spammer. Of limited value, however, are cybersleuths-persons with above-average technical skill and knowledge of the Internet who are hired to track down culprits.

While the report concludes that such cybersleuths might be able to track down likely perpetrators of spam, they are not likely to be able to positively identify the actual sources of the spam or be able to come up with admissible evidence needed in an enforcement action, the report found.

Third parties that are likely to be able to identify spammers would include banks, payment processors, Internet service providers and others that are privy to the evidence needed by law enforcement officials combating spam, the report found.

However, help from such sources does not come cheap. The FTC concluded that such sources would require rewards in the $100,000 to $250,000 range in order to justify the potential loss of their own income and any possible legal liability for their own part in the scheme.


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