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MONDAY, FEBRUARY 7, 2005
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EDITORIAL

'Don't open, don't buy' is best policy to fight spam

It's costing Americans about $1 billion a week to fight the war in Iraq, but another costly expense is one that receives little mention.

Spam.

Not the eating type, but the spam that permeates every computer that's connected to the Internet. Few people have been able to escape these unwanted advertisements for everything from discount mortgages to medicines to pornography.

For many, beginning their day means deleting unwanted spam advertisements from their computers.

Because spam is so pervasive, the University of Maryland decided to conduct a survey to determine how much this is costing those of us who depend upon or use computers. The results are surprising.

Spam is costing Americans about one-half of what it's costing to wage war and help rebuild Iraq. The time it takes to delete junk e-mail is costing about $22 billion a year.

The telephone-based survey of 1,000 adults found that three-quarters of them receive daily spam and most average 18.5 spam messages a day. The time it takes to delete them averages 2.8 minutes.

That translates into a loss in productivity equal to $21.6 billion in average U.S. wages.

Perhaps even more interesting is that the study also found 14 percent opened spam messages to see what they say, and of that number, 4 percent bought something advertised through spam.

Those are the numbers and now we know the best way to stop spam — stop opening those e-mails and stop buying from unsolicited sources.

Opening and buying only encourage more spam.

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