The Hudsucker Proxie

One of the loopholes in the Can-Spam laws is in the area of identification. The laws require the sender of an e-mail solicitation to identify themselves via postal address in the e-mail body. Anyone who has actually gone to some of these addresses listed in many high-volume e-mail addresses (like I have) will soon discover that they are standing in front of the local UPS store and a bank of rented mail boxes. In fact, I would venture to guess that if they passed legislation banning e-mail completely, we’d see UPS' revenue take a big hit.

The problem, of course, is that while you have to supply a postal address, you don’t actually have to supply a real company name. You can (and most do) supply a fake company name and rent a postal address. Now, if you are clever enough (and you hit the late shift), you might be able to actually find out the real company behind the company. But don’t count on it. Usually this kind of detective work takes a lot of time and patience, plus the knowledge gained by examining thousands of e-mails and “Whois” lookups for their unique “finger print.”

By “finger print,” what I mean is that companies often register their domains in a similar way that you can recognize after you’ve looked up about 5,000 of them. It could be an administrator’s name, a server, or the way a privacy statement is written.

That is, unless they register with “Domains By Proxie.” Domains By Proxie was originally set up so that people who register domain names could not be identified and thus spammed. For instance, I met a vendor once at a DMA show whose whole business was supplying you with the names and addresses of people who registered domain names in the last 30 days. Domains By Proxie was designed to prevent that kind of behavior.

Unfortunately, that which protects the spamee also protects the spammer. By registering with Domains By Proxie, it pretty much guarantees that spammers can’t be identified, except through whatever postal address you want to supply in the e-mail.

Many e-mail service providers such as PostMaster Direct have no problem identifying themselves in their e-mails and in their Whois address lookups. In order to start bringing legitimacy back to the space, others need to do likewise. And Can-Spam needs to close the loopholes by requiring a real address: the company’s headquarters and a real company name. And proxies need to be outlawed for those who want my in-box business.