Spam Moves to Cell Phones
By Tom Ryan
Americans are expected to receive an estimated 1.5 billion unsolicited text messages on their cell phones in 2008, according to San Francisco’s Ferris Research, which tracks mobile messaging trends. That’s nearly double the amount received in 2006.
That’s still a small percentage of the estimated 48 billion text messages that U.S. consumers sent and received in December alone, according to The New York Times. But industry executives, consumer groups and security experts are concerned that unwanted text messages will become an even worse problem than computer spam.
Cell phone spam is particularly annoying to its recipients because it is more
invasive – announcing itself with a beep. Cell phones have also become one
of consumers’ most personal technological devices. Finally, consumers are charged
as much as 20 cents for each incoming spam message.
Communications companies claim they are not interested in spam as a profit center, but are rather looking to exploit the potential of customized advertising on mobile phones. Indeed, spam messages threaten to make their customers hostile toward all commercial messages.
The carriers are trying to head off the problem before consumers revolt. Steps include regularly adjusting spam filters, and aggressively suing spammers. But just like fighting computer spam, it seems to be an uphill battle.
In March, Anthony Melone, Verizon Wireless’s chief technology officer, told the Times that Verizon began getting complaints from customers in the Northeast and Midwest about a wave of unsolicited text messages flooding its network. Mr. Melone said Verizon technicians tracked down the source and found the messages were coming from someone using e-mail accounts at msn.com.
It took a day to stop the unwanted messages because the spammers kept changing their e-mail addresses and the websites they were promoting. By then, nearly five million messages had made it past Verizon’s anti-spam filters, resulting in complaints and demands for refunds from customers, Mr. Melone said.
A whole separate issue will be the possible arrival of viruses on cell phones as mobile devices increasingly act like computers
Discussion Question: How do you think cell phone spam affects the potential for mobile marketing?