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“[Microsoft CEO Steve] Ballmer said Microsoft has special technology that just filters spam intended for [Bill] Gates. In addition, several Microsoft employees are dedicated to ensuring that nothing unwanted gets into his inbox.” AP News 11-18-04

You have got to be kidding me? How does one get a job like that? “…several Microsoft employees are dedicated to ensuring that nothing unwanted gets into his inbox.[emphasis added]” How much do you think that they could possibly be paid to spend all day (and maybe a second shift all night, too?) just removing junk email from Mr. Gates’ email mailbox?

If there is no other indicator as to the irrational level of SPAM and other junk email than this, then we are truly in the dark when it comes to understanding just how bad it is. Granted, Mr. Gates is a prime target for those anti-Microsoft geeks who want to replace the world’s best-selling operating system with some open-source code, but let’s be real here. I don’t know about you, but with all of the SPAM I receive at home and at work, even with all of the filters in place, I might like the idea of having someone else root through it and just give me the emails I want.

Surely, there must be a market for this? We could take all of those who say that the economy sucks and they can’t find a job, and hire them to do it. How much overhead could there be? Just a large warehouse with a fat Internet pipe connection (like, say, an OC-9?) and a bunch of beige-box, no-name brand computers and some cheap furniture, and you’re set. People would pay top dollar to have someone clean their email mailboxes, so there is definitely a profit to be made!

The Washington Post (January 6, 2004) reports:

Since President Bush signed the new restrictions into law Dec. 16 and they went into effect Jan. 1, spam-filtering companies and Internet providers report little change in spam patterns, which have relentlessly marched to higher levels over the past two years. Estimates vary, but spam accounts for roughly 60 percent of all e-mail traffic, with costs to fight it exceeding $10 billion a year.

That’s a lot of junk. Imagine your regular postal mail box, and every day– for 365 days– pulling out ten envelopes, and six of them are junk mail. This is a broad generalization of the problem, but factor in the ease at which spammers can send out millions of emails every day, and you have sprung from a problem to an epidemic.

Even with the laws that have been passed, and in some cases enforced, laws won’t be enough. Many of these spammers operate outside of the United States, and are immune to the laws passed there. So what can be done?

We, as Internet users, must take a stand. Do not reply to SPAM emails which purport to remove you from their list if you do. They’ll only sell your email address to someone else, or even sell it to more than one outfit. Do not send mass-emails to all of your friends and family with their names in the TO or CC fields; instead use the BCC field. Some spammers can actually pull address information out of the TO and CC fields, and sell that, too. Do not install applications on your computer unless you are certain that they contain no spyware. Spyware can also harvest your address book for email addresses, and send that information to the culprits without you knowing it.

Taking just these few steps can dramatically reduce the amount of SPAM that you receive. There are other third-party applications that work with your email program that can help, too. Naturally, the more expensive ones will probably do a better job.

But, if you have the money, send it to me and we’ll start our warehouse, anti-spam company. With the profits made from such a venture, perhaps we could buy Microsoft?

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