I’m at risk!

Note: This entry has been restored from old archives.

According to SiteAdvisor I’m at risk! Oh no!

Rating: You’re at risk!
Watch out! Your inbox might explode! Your decisions would have resulted in your
inbox being filled with approximately 2000 spammy e-mails per week. But who can
blame you? It’s often very hard to tell which sites will respect your personal
information. ā€¦

Okay, so not quite so terrible. There’s just one flaw with this quiz and that’s the fact that I would never, ever give any email address to any of the sites and thus am actually at zero risk šŸ˜‰

I believe the most important point here is missed or at least not well conveyed: that based purely on visuals (they also link to the privacy policies, but who reads them?) you simply can’t tell whether or not a site is going to be a source of spam. That’s why something like SiteAdvisor has value, you just can’t know how bad a site will be until you try and the premise of SiteAdvisor is that they do the trying for you. A very good tool for those who run around the web throwing their email address around like a popular STD (probably most people)… though I have to wonder who’s going to convince people who have bad habits to start with to download an Internet condom? Anyone “in the know” should see it as their duty to spread the word: condoms are good, they’ll protect your box from strange gunk. Though this is more like some kind of registered paedophile list than a general purpose preventative.

I do realise the whole thing is probably an engineered marketing campaign with sites carefully selected for their lack of intuitive ‘spamminess’ clues and that they can probably typically expect a result of 50% (choose the sample comparisons well enough of course and you can swing this either way). The main point is probably avoided since it is more effective to make individuals feel that their personal inadequacies require patching up (taking a lesson from the spammers, this is why penile enlargement spam is still worthwhile enough to continue to be such a problem after all these years, there’s an inexhaustible supply of personal inadequacy out there fuelling the world of misplaced hope otherwise known as advertising^Wspam).

What will protect us from the unexpected though, such as my recent AllOfMP3/ChronoPay experience? Both legitimate online businesses with apparently clean privacy records (okay, so one of them looses points for being Russian) and not a peep of spam after more than a year of use and them wham, I have more bestiality and incest in my inbox than I can handle. Probably a security breach, either technical or most likely a low-paid employee lured by some extra cash. Importantly: this can not be detected in advance. So while SiteAdvisor is likely an effective approach to mitigate the spam deluge we’re not quite seeing the end of reactive AntiSpam software just yet; as much as I wish it could be so. I’ve used SiteAdvisor on one of my machines for a while though and do find the results interesting, if not typically much use to a user like myself (the SiteAdvisor Firefox plugin’s marking of Google results as good|bad is nifty, interesting that Google came out not long afterwards with the same idea built-in; SiteAdvisor is still at the advantage because it is there in your taskbar all the time).

If you’re like me you own your own domains and if forced to give some site an address they get their very own unique one – this has two great advantages: 1) You can block that email when it starts getting spam; 2) You know who was responsible for spamming you or leaking your address. I must admit that it would be nice not to have such a level of complexity required to “manage spam”.

And on a related note I’m sad to see that one of the two remaining spam blocklists that I consider safe to use at an SMTP rejection level looks like it could end up being the victim of further proof of USAian litigative idiocy. The two I still use are: list.dsbl.org, sbl.spamhaus.org.