Faced with a growing amount of spam, E-mail users have resigned themselves to the torrent of unsolicited commercial messages. A new report from the non-profit Pew Internet & American Life Project finds that even as spam volume continues to increase, E-mail users mind it less.
The report, based on a nationwide phone survey of 1,421 Internet users between Jan. 13 and Feb. 9, suggests that the amount of spam reaching inboxes continues to rise despite some claims to the contrary. Among those with personal E-mail accounts, 28% say they are receiving more spam than a year ago, while 22% say they're receiving less. Among those with E-mail accounts at work, 21% report more spam, and 16% report less.
However, the study also notes that the modest increase in spam reported by users is substantially less than might be expected given the 83% growth in the overall volume of spam in 2004, as measured by E-mail security company MessageLabs Ltd. The study suggests that most of the spam isn't making it to inboxes, possibly because of better filtering and changes in user behavior.
Filtering may be having the most impact, since some behaviors aren't changing much. In 2003, 69% of E-mail users said they'd avoid posting their E-mail addresses on Web sites—a source of addresses for spammers. This year, 64% say as much. And the number of E-mail users who order products from spammers remains stable—6% this year, 7% in June 2003, and 5% a year ago.
Some 67% of respondents found spam annoying, compared to 77% last year. And with rising tolerance of spam, fewer E-mail users are giving up on the medium. The study finds that 22% of E-mail users say spam has made them less trusting of E-mail, compared to 29% at the beginning of 2004. For E-mail advertisers, who continue to worry that suspicion of spammers will mar legitimate marketing, this may come as good news.
Another welcome finding may be that porn spam is down. The number of users who claim to have received pornographic spam has declined from 71% to 63% in the past year. But phishing represents a new concern. Some 35% of E-mail users said they'd been phished, and 2% of those said they'd responded with personal information.