Operators Implement Software in the Fight Against Spam | DMA

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Operators Implement Software in the Fight Against Spam

Over three years ago it was apparent that SMS spam was on the rise. And it still seems to be an issue. As I was writing this blog, I received yet another spam text for accident claims. When spam first became a major problem, I met with the regulators and operators, through the DMA. At that time they didn’t see it as a major issue. However, they took on board our comments and through a series of regular meetings, we began to see progress. Our approach was to tackle the problem in three ways; better enforcement, consumer education and more robust spam filtering by the operators. In 2012 the ICO conducted raids on the text spammers and as a result, a number of large fines have been made. The problem has received more coverage, through sites such as Money Expert and Which? as well as a Panorama documentary and BBC Breakfast reports.

When we first discussed spam filtering with the operators, there seemed to be a number of technical and business barriers to implementing it effectively. Unlike an email, for example, an SMS carried no header, so with very little information in the message it is harder for computerized systems to identify an unsolicited text. There was a solution though, in the form of intelligent software that monitors messaging patterns to identify spammers. It operates in a similar way to the spam button in emails, where the user notifies the system which then attempts to block subsequent similar messages.

This week, the GSMA announced that all UK operators have implemented this system, called SRS (Spam Reporting Service). This is great news, as not only will it help reduce spam texts, but it will also be able to provide data to the ICO when investigating rogue companies. As I had just received an unsolicited text, it seemed like an ideal opportunity to test the system. I forwarded the message to the reporting number, 7726 (it spells SPAM) and immediately received a reply asking for the sending number, followed by confirmation that it had also been received. So, from the user end, the system works simply and efficiently.

The rogue companies are very agile in their tactics, and for the last couple of years we have seen greater use of nuisance calls, many through VOIP numbers. The GSMA have stated that they would like to include such calls in their future reporting system. Everyone is realistic though – there is no magic cure to the problem of spam. However, I believe that this recent step will help to reduce the amount of unsolicited messages. That is helpful to both consumers and the legitimate marketing industry.

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