Government purse key to breaking spam curse

The government has been urged to make sure that the Information Commissioner has the financial muscle to prosecute the worst spammers
Written by Graeme Wearden, Contributor

The UK government can only hope to win its war on spam if it provides the Information Commissioner with the necessary financial muscle, according to the organisation that handles some 96 percent of the Internet traffic flowing in and out of the UK.

London Internet Exchange (LINX) said on Thursday that Internet service providers are in the best position to crack down on people and organisations that bombard email users with unsolicited messages, but that the Information Commissioner will be key to fighting the worst offenders.

"Unfortunately, the only practical action that ISPs can take is to close the customer account," said Malcolm Hutty, LINX regulation officer, in a statement.

"Enforcement by the Information Commissioner will be needed in cases where this is an insufficient response -- for example, where the customer opens a succession of accounts with different ISPs, moving from one to the next as each account is closed. In such circumstances, LINX would like to see the Information Commissioner take exemplary enforcement action as a deterrent to others," Hutty explained.

LINX outlined its views in more detail in its contribution to the government's consultation on the EU Privacy and Electronic Communications Directive.

This legislation attempts to combat the growing problem of spam by making it illegal for UK firms to send unsolicited emails to people who aren't existing customers, and should come into law in Britain before the end of this year.

"We very much welcome these regulations, which make it possible to take legal action against spammers. However, it is important that the Information Commissioner is funded to make full use of these new powers," said Hutty, adding that ISPs would always be able to act more quickly than a statutory regime such as the Information Commissioner.

The consultation on the directive closed this week. More than 300 responses were submitted, and a formal government response could be published in August.

The Department of Trade and Industry, which is overseeing the implementation of the directive, believes it is too early to talk about fine details such as additional financial support for the Information Commissioner.

"Issues like funding have still be worked out," a DTI spokesman told ZDNet UK. Such points are likely to be decided once the various responses have been analysed.

The Information Commissioner's Office did not immediately respond for requests for comment at the time of writing.

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