Monday, April 20, 2009

Cost of Spam

Every morning I wake up, check my email, and delete 100 or so spam messages. It takes me maybe 3 minutes to sort through all of my email and delete the spam. My spam catcher takes care of the bulk of my spam, and I do the rest. I have pretty much accepted spam as a normal part of using email. Until recently when I read a statistic that I find alarming: spam wastes $3 billion a year in electricity. That's enough electricity to power 2.4 million American homes.

I am stunned by this huge energy waste. I am also conflicted. I believe in network neutrality. All traffic on the Internet should be treated equally. In other words, my World of Warcraft game gets the same priority as my husband's streaming hockey playoffs from online as the guy next door downloading a large file. That also means that, from a network standpoint, spammers have the same right to the bandwidth as I do. If we make regulations to limit spam, I think it would be easy for them to be used to discriminate against other types of traffic as well.

So what's the answer? I don't know. McAfee is promoting aggressive spam filters. I certainly notice a difference with my spam filter running, but I'm not sure they're smart enough yet to be an end-all solution. If you're curious about how McAfee got their spam-electricity cost numbers, check out the summary report. It's an interesting read.