French study warns against spam via Plaxo

By EDRi · November 19, 2003

The ad-hoc French organisation ‘halte au spam’ (stop spam) organised a
successful forum on spam in Paris on 3 November. The forum was attended by
more than 200 people, including 25 journalists. During the forum an
interesting new study was presented about the privacy-dangers of social
internet-tools like Plaxo. Plaxo’s service invites you to upload your
Outlook address book to a central server. The server then sends mails to
everybody asking them to update their information.

These kinds of services are very successful, thanks to being free and
using viral marketing schemes, but concerns from anti-spam devotees seem
justified. For example, the marketing approach is not at all in accordance
with the French privacy authority’s opinion on sponsorship-based data
collection. In the activity report about 2002, the commission recalls that
internet users who wish to act as sponsors are to ‘get prior consent from
their sponsorees, before their personal data is communicated to a company
with which they have no relationship. In Belgium this kind of viral
marketing is forbidden since March 2003.

A former senior analyst from Forrester Research is quoted in the report to
believe that the only way Plaxo can make money is by offering paid spam
filters. “These filters would block all incoming e-mail that isn’t in your
address book. Since the majority of e-mail traffic is with people in your
address book your e-mail would be spam free.”

Study ‘Do social applications pose a threat?’ (03.11.2003)

(Thanks to Frédéric Aoun, internet consultant, co-organiser Paris Spam Forum)