• United States



by Paul Kerstein

FTC Unveils Operation Button Pusher; Releases CAN-SPAM Progress Report

Dec 20, 20053 mins
CSO and CISOData and Information Security

On Tuesday, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced its newest anti-spam initiative, Operation Button Pusher. The FTC is already prosecuting three separate cases under Button Pusher, and the Canadian Competition Bureau has settled two more.  The attorney generals for the states of Texas, North Carolina and Florida have also filed suits against spammers under the new program, and number of U.S. attorneys across the nation have executed search warrants in regards to illegal spam operations.

The cases filed by Canada’s Competition Bureau were settled by civic consent agreement.  The parties involved in the suit have agreed to no longer make false or misleading representations to the public in any form, to not make any performance claims about products or services without first providing proof of proper testing to the bureau, and to pay fines.

The FTC simultaneously released a progress report of the 2003 CAN-SPAM Act.  The report, Effectiveness and Enforcement of the CAN-SPAM Act, was submitted to Congress last week, according to Lydia Parnes, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.  It concludes that the act is aggressively being enforced by state and federal law enforcement officials, as well as within the private sector, and that the additional protections provided to consumers have led to a decrease in overall spam volumes since the act was signed into law.  

“We never thought, nor did Congress, that CAN-SPAM Act alone was the solution to this problem,” Parnes said. “We’re not here today to say that the spam problem is solved. What we’re saying is that we’re making progress.”

The report identifies three recommendations that could improve the efficacy of the act.  First of all, Congress should enact the U.S. Safe Web Act, to improve the federal government’s ability to locate and prosecute spammers who operate overseas. Second, the FTC should further its education and awareness efforts to better protect consumers from spam, spyware or other inappropriate material.  Finally, the FTC should pursue any and all advancements in anti-spam technology, in particular, tools that would stop spammers’ ability to act anonymously.

“We can improve the overall landscape for consumers and businesses in our respective countries by insuring that border-less crimes are met with orderly and timely enforcement action so there is no place to hide for those who engage in these scams,” said Assistant Deputy Commissioner of the Canadian Competition Bureau, Andrea Rosen.

The FTC brought 21 cases under CAN-SPAM and 62 cases targeting spam before the act’s enactment.

“We’re using technology and teamwork in the battle against illegal spam,” Parnes said.  “Taken together, they are helping us combat the outlaw spammers who disregard laws designed to prevent fraud and protect consumers’ rights.”

By Al Sacco