April 10, 2005

Spam and phishing

WASHINGTON – More than a year after the CAN-SPAM Act became law, email users say they are receiving slightly more spam in their inboxes than before, but they are minding it less. A new survey by the Pew Internet & American Life Project conducted between January 13 and February 9, 2005, shows the following:

  • 28% of users with a personal email account say they are getting more spam than a year ago, while 22% say they are getting less.
  • 21% of users with a work email account say they are getting more spam than a year ago, while 16% say they are getting less.
  • 53% of email users say spam has made them less trusting of email, compared to 62% a year ago.
  • 22% of email users say that spam has reduced their overall use of email, compared to 29% a year ago.
  • 67% of email users say spam has made being online unpleasant or annoying, compared to 77% a year ago. Overall, more than half of all internet users (52%) complain that spam is a big problem. “We see a little more spam with a little less distress since Congress tried to stem the flow of unsolicited email with the CAN-SPAM Act in January 2004,” said Deborah Fallows, Senior Research Fellow at the Pew Internet Project. “Maybe people are getting used to spam, or becoming resigned to it, just like air pollution and crowded roads.” Among other things, the survey found that people were getting less porn spam, a uniquely troubling form of spam for most users and particularly for women. While 63% of email users now say they have received porn spam, down 8 percentage points from a year ago, 29% of those email users say they are now getting less porn spam, compared to 16% who said they are getting more. And in a first-time measure of “phishing,” or unsolicited email requesting personal financial information, 35% of users say they have received such email, and 2% have responded by providing the information. In further findings, more email users have reacted positively to the unprecedented use of email in political campaigns over the past year. In June, 2003, 74% of emailers considered “unsolicited email from a political or advocacy group” to be spam, but by January, 2005, that number had dropped significantly to 66%. The Pew Internet & American Life Project is a non-profit initiative of the Pew Research Center and is funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts to examine the social impact of the internet. It does not advocate policy outcomes.