FTC targets spam manufacturers

The Federal Trade Commission, which won kudos with its Do Not Call registry in 2003, is targeting an even more pervasive but elusive group of marketers -- mass e-mailers.

The FTC proposes building a national registry of consumer and business e-mail addresses and a registry of approved e-mail marketers, or possibly a combination of the two, according to a request for information published Feb. 20.

The commission envisions the anti-spam system working similar to the Do Not Call registry. Consumers and businesses would register their e-mail addresses at an FTC Web site, and then they would receive e-mail confirmations to which they must reply to complete the registration process.

Although the FTC has a basic model for how such a system might work, the commission is asking industries to provide feedback on their proposal or to suggest their own ideas.

"The commission recognizes that a National Do Not E-Mail Registry could take one of many possible forms and actively encourages responders .... to propose registry models similar to or different than those described," according to the RFI.

FTC officials have said in the past that a Do Not E-mail registry is not likely to be effective. But the Can-Spam Act of 2003, signed into law in December, requires the FTC to implement such a system by Sept. 16, 2004.

"Spam is one of the most daunting consumer protection problems that the Commission has ever faced," said FTC chairman Timothy Muris in a speech last August.

The RFI comes just a week after the commission put out a press release warning that a "do not e-mail registry" was a scam. The Web site, which has a unsub.us domain, is not authorized by the FTC, the commission warned.

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