FTC Passes On Do-Not-Spam List

The Bush administration will not immediately create a national do-not-spam registry to discourage unwanted e-mails, saying using current technology to do so might even generate more unsolicited sales pitches across the Internet.

The Federal Trade Commission Tuesday said it feared that unscrupulous senders of unwanted e-mails would mine such a registry of e-mail addresses to look for new victims.

"We find that a national Do-Not-Email Registry would be ineffective and burdensome to consumers," FTC Chairman Timothy Muris said. "We learned that when it comes to a do-not-email registry, consumers will be spammed if we do a registry and spammed if we do not."

The commission, which was obligated to consider the proposal under the "can spam" legislation that President Bush signed in December, concluded that it would be "largely powerless to identify those responsible for misusing the registry."

Regulators instead proposed broad adoption of new authentication technology that will make it more difficult to disguise the origin of unwanted e-mails.

"Without an effective system for authenticating the source of e-mail, any registry of individual e-mail addresses will fail," Muris said at a press conference.

Several proposals from leading technology companies, including Microsoft Corp., are under industry consideration.

"Any consumer who would register an e-mail address could get more spam," Muris said. "I wouldn't put my e-mail address on such a registry, and I wouldn't advise consumers to, either."

The government said it was particularly worried about issues of security and privacy with respect to children whose addresses might be added to such a registry.

"A registry that identified accounts used by children, for example, could assist legitimate marketers to avoid sending inappropriate messages to children," the commission said. "At the same time, however, the Internet's most dangerous users, including pedophiles, also could use this information to target children."

"The beauty of the Internet, of course, is that you can e-mail anybody, anywhere in the world," Muris said at a conference sponsored by the Consumer Federation of America in March. "The bane of the Internet is that anybody, anywhere in the world, can e-mail you."

A telephone do-not-call law went into effect last October, and was upheld by a federal appeals court in February. That ruling declared "that regulations like these don't have to be perfect so long as they advance a government interest without over burdening free speech rights," said Legal Analyst Andrew Cohen then.

That list is administered by the Federal Communications Commission.