Spam followup: Sky Radio Net

On Tuesday, I got a call from someone at Sky Radio Networks on my cell phone. (Unfortunately, I missed the name of the caller, and when I asked later in the conversation, he didn’t want to provide it to me.) For the purposes of this post, let’s call him John.

In total, John and I spoke for about 5-10 minutes about the incident. John was aware of the CAN-SPAM act, which I agreed Sky Radio complied with. Indeed, the fact that they didn’t attempt to hide their origins is what allowed me to track them down so easily. It’s unfortunate that compliance with the CAN-SPAM act actually makes you more likely to be targeted by someone like me, but more than anything it shows the ineffectiveness of the current laws around spam in the U.S.

I guess I wasn’t clear about my tracking methods in my initial email and blog post – I had to explain to John that the email address they used to send me spam was used only for domain name registrations, and available online via a WHOIS lookup. This data was frequently harvested in the past by spammers, but lately they’ve put rate-limiting controls and CAPTCHAs on WHOIS services to prevent exactly this form of abuse. The address in question isn’t even used on any active domain names anymore; it’s just a stale address that continues to float around on spammer’s lists. When I explained this to John, I think he finally understood why I wasn’t happy getting email from him.

John apologized for the spam, agreed to pull me off the list, but would not go so far as to commit to responsible commercial emailing in the future. From the legal standpoint of the CAN-SPAM act, they’re in the clear. However, their actions still violate the terms of service of their ISP and web host:

  • The email was sent via an IP belonging to Road Runner’s business-class service. Here’s the relevant section from Road Runner’s acceptable use policy:

    Spamming is defined as sending unsolicited advertisements to numerous E-mail addresses or newsgroups and/or generating a significantly higher volume of outgoing E-mail than a normal user. Spamming is strictly prohibited by these Rules. The Rules are not limited to the sending of spam from the Web sites hosted by Road Runner, Business Class; rather, the Rules prohibit any purposeful use of spam tactics to generate Web site contact or advertisement. This prohibition includes, but is not limited to, the purposeful or knowing use of Web sites hosted by other ISPs (whether or not owned by the customer) to send spam that links the recipient to a Web site hosted by Road Runner. You will be held liable for a third party’s actions unless we determine that you did not know, or did not have reason to know, that the spam contained a link to your Web site.

  • Sky Radio Network’s website appears to be hosted with either Big Pipe Inc. or Shaw Business Solutions (it appears Big Pipe was aquired at some point in the recent past). In particular, Big Pipe Inc. has an acceptable use policy that forbid spamming on other services to promote a website hosted by them:

    Spamming indirectly through the use of other service providers or transmitting email or content through other service providers in a way which indicates in any way that Shaw Business Solutions was involved in the transmission of such email or content

John asked me to remove the blog post, which I refused. I did offer to write this article and publish any statement they wanted. Here’s what I got from them:

Hi Paul,

Thank you for the insight. I apologize and you will be removed immediately. We found you under the company name of Paradise Marketing Services and thought you were a legitimate company and may be interested in our services.

I believe we are in compliance with the CAN SPAM 2003 ACT. If we are not, please let me know.

Best Regards,
Patricia

I would have liked to have convinced Sky Radio to change their ways and use email responsibly, but I don’t think I was successful in that regard. Still, I’d far prefer dealing with companies like them than whomever sends me the other 999 spams/day I seem to get. Just having the courtesy to call me and talk about it goes a long way.