According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project February-March 2007, written by Senior Research Fellow, Deborah Fallows, spam continues to plague the internet as more Americans than ever say they are getting more spam than in the past, but are less bothered by it than before. Users have become more sophisticated, and 71% use filters offered by their email provider or employer to block spam. Users also report less exposure to pornographic spam. Spam has not become a significant deterrent to the use of email, as some observers speculated it might when unsolicited email first began flooding users' inboxes several years ago. But it continues to degrade the integrity of email. Some 55% of email users say they have lost trust in email because of spam.
Spam by the Numbers (88% of email users have a personal account; 49% of email users have a work account.)
% of users
Getting more spam in personal email account
Getting less spam in personal email account
Have not noticed a change
Getting more spam in work email account
Getting less spam in work email account
Have not noticed a change
Source: Pew Internet & American Life Project February-March 2007 Survey
Some of the highlights of the survey conducted between February 15 and March 7, 2007, include the following information:
In June 2003, when internet users were first asked how spam affected their life on the internet, 25% of users said spam was a big problem for them. Three and a half years later, the percentage of users who say spam is a big problem has dropped to 18%. On the positive side, the percentage of users who say spam is not at all a problem has risen from 16% to 28%. And the portion of email users who take the middle ground, describing spam as an annoyance but not a big problem, hovers at about half (51%) down from 57% in 2003.
Porn spam elicited intense and visceral reactions from internet users, particularly women. People reported that the most bothersome thing about spam was exposure to content that was offensive or obscene in nature. And, three times more respondents reported that porn spam bothered them more than any other kind of spam. Results from this survey, however, show a steady and dramatic reduction in the porn spam. Now, 52% of email users report having received pornographic spam, down from 63% two years ago and 71% three years ago.
Internet users under the age of 50 are more likely than older users to say that spam is annoying. Two-thirds of college graduate internet users are annoyed by spam, compared with 45% of those with less education. Those with accounts both work and personal accounts are more annoyed with spam than those with only one type of account.
Nuanced Reactions to Spam (% of respondents)
Spam is a big problem
Spam is annoying
Spam is not a problem at all
All internet users
Internet users age 18-49
Internet users age 50+
Internet users with a college degree
Internet users with less education
Internet users with 6+ years online
Internet users w/less than 6 years online
Daily internet users
Less-frequent internet users
Internet users with both work and personal email accounts
Internet users with only a personal email account
Internet users with only a work email account
Source: Pew Internet & American Life Project February-March 2007
Among current email users:
In both February of 2003 and 2007, 91% of internet users said they were using email. In this survey, 19% of users said spam has reduced their overall user of email, down from 22% in 2005, 29% in 2004, and 25% in 2003.
In 2003, over half of email users, 52%, said that spam has made them less trusting of email in general. In 2004, 62% of email users said spam made them less trusting of email, 53% agreed in 2005, and 55% agree now.
And, email users report no change in the volume of another troubling form of spam, phishing, which is an email designed to trick someone into revealing personal financial information.For the complete report in PDF format, please visit PEW here.