In an organized effort to fight spammers who send millions of unsolicited e-mail messages daily to recipients around the world, the U.S. is being joined by agencies in the U.K. and Australia to better protect Internet users across international borders.
In an announcement Friday, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) said six agencies from the three countries will share resources to fight illegal spam.
"This is just one piece of the puzzle, the enforcement piece," said Yael Weinman, a legal adviser for the U.S. Bureau of Consumer Protection, an agency within the FTC. "There are also technical issues that need to be addressed with the cooperation and participation of the private sector.
"This is gearing toward joint investigations and parallel investigations" against spammers to combat spam problems that are worsening across international borders, she said.
The three nations have drafted a memorandum of understanding (http://www.ftc.gov/os/2004/07/040630spammoutext.pdf) that lays out specific rules and procedures that allow them to share information and work together to detect, investigate and track spammers. The deal also allows the nations to exchange evidence and coordinate enforcement efforts.
The memorandum of understanding also promotes an October meeting, scheduled to take place in London, where law enforcement officials from around the world will gather to address the spam problem.
In addition to the FTC, the agencies involved in the effort are the U.K. Office of Fair Trading, the U.K. Information Commissioner, Her Majesty's Secretary of State for Trade and Industry in the U.K., the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, and the Australian Communications Authority.
Spokesmen for the U.K. Information Commissioner's office and the Australian Communications Authority couldn't be reached today.
In a statement, Stephen Timms, the U.K. communications minister, said the effort is "not going to solve spam overnight, but it reinforces our determination to tackle it with a combination of industry initiatives, technical solutions and user awareness."
Bob Horton, acting chairman of the Australian Communications Authority, agreed. "This Memorandum of Understanding provides a framework for cooperation in fighting cross-border spam affecting all three countries," Horton said in a statement.
Ellen Qualls, press secretary for Virginia Gov. Mark Warner, said the FTC announcement will provide more government tools to help fight spam. "We would welcome a broad-based solution," Qualls said.
Last year, Warner signed into law one of the toughest antispam bills in the country (see story), providing prison terms of up to five years and hefty fines for the worst violators. Virginia is home to the Internet service operations of America Online Inc. and other large e-mail providers.