Aussie anti-spam law working, NZ to follow suit

Spam volumes in Australia continue to be high, but the proportion of worldwide spam coming from Australia has dropped since the passing of the Spam Act in 2003, says the Australian government's Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts (DCITA).

The department has published a review of the act, in line with provisions put in place at its inception. Despite a variety of public submissions recommending changes, DCITA has adopted for the most part a "steady as she goes" view, recommending that most provisions of the act continue unchanged, or be supplemented with a measure of pertinent education to clarify meaning.

In particular, there was a strong push to include fax spam in the act, which currently covers only messages conveyed in email and some SMS and instant messaging communications.

Small business, however, resisted such a change, professing concern at the impact on their operations of regulating faxes. Some suggested a voluntary industry code.

DCITA recommends that further consultation be undertaken on this front.

Some submission writers pushed for a lessening of the exemptions to the act, whereby certain kinds of messages, such as political and religious promotions, were allowed not to observe the general prohibition on messages to parties which had not "opted in," and do not have to provide an unsubscribe facility. The report, however, recommends no change to these categories. DCITA was not convinced that there had been a significant number of messages that had abused the exemption.

Microsoft says the compulsory unsubscribe facility, when applied to all messages from a multifaceted company, is too complex to manage reliably. It suggested that the facility should be actionable on a business-unit or product-line basis, typically requiring several unsubscribe requests from a user who wished to get no more messages from the company.

Electronic Frontiers Australia, by contrast, suggested that the requirement be tightened, to allow all personnel within a recipient's business unit to be able to unsubscribe with one request.

DCITA, however, opts to continue with the requirement in its current form.

Minister of IT and communications David Cunliffe has introduced anti-spam legislation here in New Zealand which is based, in part, on the Australian model. That bill is still proceeding through parliament.

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