False positives are a necessary evil

Joanna Glasner of Wired asks whether spam filters are too strict, and I answer yes. But it is a necessary evil. People don’t want unsolicited mail anymore than they want unsolicited phone calls, hence the do-not-call registry. Unfortunately, there isn’t a national do-not-email registry, and there might never be. So email service providers set their filters tighter than snare drums, because their goal is to please their users. And constant pr0n and p1ll email is none too pleasing.

“If AOL or another ISP decides that someone’s a spammer, then no e-mail from that individual gets through,” said EFF attorney Cindy Cohn, whose group opposes the AOL plan. “But there’s a fundamental difficulty at the heart of the spam debate: The only one who knows what you want delivered in your inbox is you.”

This continued outcry makes me think that these organizations are not opt-in! Why all the fuss? Take the last sentence to heart. Ask your members to put you on their approved senders list when they opt-in to receive communication from you, and the first statement is a non-issue (not that I lend much credibility to it to begin with, as what Cindy is describing there is really blacklisting, and that usually takes more than just the efforts of the ISP). If this is a “recruitment” issue, let your existing members help, as their friends are probably like minded individuals, and their friends probably have them on THEIR approved senders list too.

If organizations don’t start thinking a little “out of the box,” this debate is never going to end, and neither is spam.