Committed to connecting the world

ICTs for a Sustainable World #ICT4SDG

Contribution Feb 2013 Text Display Screen



Name : REDWIN, Paul
Date : October 10, 2013
Organization : DCMS
Country : UK
Issues : Issue 1

Contribution :

Introduction

The Council Working Group on International Internet-Related Public Policy Issues invites all stakeholders to provide input on international public policy issues related to effectively countering and combatting spam.

In responding to this consultation, the UK  supports the approach that public policy issues require engagement,  input  and decision making from all stakeholders.  The UK notes with concern the apparent duplication that exists in various activities, and believes that new issues should only be initiated if no other study or activity is already underway.

The UK’s response was agreed using its Multi-stakeholder Advisory Group (UK MAG) with involvement from Industry, Academia, Civil Society as well as Government. 

Background

The issue of SPAM is multi-faceted and spans various areas of responsibility, including those associated with legal and operational activities.  This is made additionally complex when different technologies are used in its distribution, and when considered from the aspect of a number of stakeholders.  This latter point is based on the principle identified above, namely that all stakeholders impacted by whatever is defined as SPAM have a valid role to play.

International Public Policy issues associated with SPAM must be discussed within the context of the technological, legal and operational framework in which it may originate and terminate.  Any discussion has to take full account of both the technological and operational aspects of SPAM An approach that considers either of those elements in isolation is not tenable.

Irrespective of the technology, and the point in a communication channel (origin, termination or transit) where SPAM occurs, it may be considered unsolicited and to occur in bulk.  Sent without provision of a recipient’s agreement to receive an email, is this an issue? One aspect that may raise issues for the recipient could be the anonymity of the origin, although this alone appears insufficient to declare text unwarranted.  It appears that “bulk” also contributes – but how is bulk defined?  Is it 10 unsolicited communications? a 100? a 1000? Until this question is answered in each context, then what constitutes SPAM remains an issue.

Until now the issue has been referred to as SPAM.  However as indicated previously, it is multi-faceted problem. .  Each instance needs to be clearly identified and understood before public policy issues (national or international) can be considered.

Discussion

A detailed examination of the issues related to SPAM clearly shows the complexity of the problem, which a more generalised assessment often conceals. One can describe numerous communications using email  that place the recipient at risk by sharing personal information (phishing), alternatively one can describe numerous communications using SMS offering access via a URL for the recipient to claim a free gift (distributing malware), one can also describe numerous scenarios which result in the perpetration of fraud. Each of these may be considered “SPAM” but they are different and distinct. 

In each description that can be developed, the role and action of each party involved needs to be fully understood; the originator of the message, the network operator across which the message originates, the network operator across which the message transits, the entity responsible for equipment that is used, as well as all legal and technical impositions and limitations. In most cases, activity is already underway to address specific issues. Two examples can be cited. GSMA is addressing the issue of Malware being distributed through SMS.  IETF has provided guidance for email system administrators to address their system being used without traceability.

Given that privacy and fraud in most countries is already dealt with under national law, little appears to be required under International policy aspects. 

Proposal

From our analysis there appear to be two aspects that do require further discussion.  The first is to determine what is meant by the term ‘bulk’.  The second is how to address problems that currently prevent originators of email being able to ensure that they are doing so in a manner in which they can assert that the intended recipient has given their consent, in other words it has been solicited. 

The nature of consent is defined in national law and therefore Member States should be encouraged to ensure that such consent is obtained prior to distribution of messages.