Computer users receive more spam than they did two years ago, but are finding ways to cope with the clutter. A research report released by Pew Internet & the American Life Project found that 71 percent of e-mail users deploy filters to weed out unwanted messages.
More than half of e-mail users (55 percent) say they have lost trust in e-mail because of spam. While the unwanted messages continue to degrade the integrity of e-mail, “spam has not become a significant deterrent to the use of e-mail,” the report said. It was previously believed unsolicited mail would turn users away.
The perceived “bother” of spam is lower in 2007 (7 percent) than when the study was originally conducted in June 2003 when 25 percent of users said spam was a big problem. Those who say spam is not a problem at all increased from 16 percent to 28 percent over the same time period. Fifty-one percent find spam an annoyance but not a big problem, down from 57 percent in 2003.
“After so many years of dealing with spam, most people realize that unfortunately it’s a fact of life, they can prepare for it, but most users know it’s something they can’t change,” said Susannah Fox, associate director at Pew Internet & American Life Project.
E-mail users are becoming more savvy; 71 percent use filters, 41 percent apply their own filters to clean their inboxes, and 44 percent have taken steps to shield their e-mail addresses online.
What we see is that people are now more likely to take action such as using a filter,” said Fox. “Most people say they recognize spam when they see it and aren’t likely to click on something by mistake.”
Spam folder monitoring isn’t a regular activity for most e-mail users. Fifty-one percent check their designated folders once in a while, and 45 percent say they check it almost never, or never check their spam folders. The issue of false positives wasn’t covered in the study.
Users may be more savvy, but 23 percent have clicked on a link contained in a spam message to get more information, down from 33 percent in 2003. Four percent, a small but meaningful number, admit to ordering a product or service from unsolicited e-mails, an activity “that keeps the spam industry viable,” the report said.
“We continue to have e-mail users who click on the links in the spam message, which encourages spammers,” said Fox. “We have the group that is going to continue to make spamming an attractive option.”
Age and level of education affects the perception of spam. Internet users under 50 are more likely to say spam is annoying. Two-thirds of college graduate Internet users, compared to 45 percent of those with less education, find spam annoying. Additionally, users with both work and personal accounts are more annoyed with spam.
“People with a college education are more likely to be working desk jobs than people with less education, therefore using e-mail both at home and at work, they are also more likely to have been online a long time,” Fox said. She adds that Internet users with tenure who have used the same address for a long time are likely to get more spam, and have lived with spam for a longer period of time.
The findings are based on a phone survey about spam conducted between February 15 and March 7, 2007. The survey was conducted with a nationally representative sample of 2,200 American adults; 1,405 of the respondents were e-mail users.
|U.S. Spam Volume as Reported by Users, March 2007|
|How has spam volume changed?||Users (%)|
|Getting more spam in personal e-mail account||37|
|Getting less spam in personal e-mail account||10|
|Have not noticed a change||51|
|Getting more spam in work e-mail account||29|
|Getting less spam in work e-mail account||8|
|Have not noticed a change||55|
2. Margin of error for Internet users is +/- 3%.
3. 88% of e-mail users have a personal account.
4. 49% of e-mail users have a work account.
|Source: Pew Internet & American Life Project, 2007|
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