Lawsuit Targets 'Spam Harvesters'
An anti-spam organization filed a federal lawsuit Thursday targeting so-called
spam harvesters, who facilitate the mass distribution of junk e-mail by trolling
the Internet and collecting millions of e-mail addresses.
The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Alexandria by a Utah company
called Unspam Technologies Inc. The company runs a Web site called Project Honey
Pot dedicated to tracking spam harvesters worldwide.
Project Honey Pot has collected thousands of Internet addresses that it has
linked to spam harvesters, but it so far has been unable to link those addresses
to an actual person.
The lawsuit names a variety of John Does as defendants, and the plaintiffs
hope that the legal process will allow them to track the actual people who are
harvesting the e-mail addresses, said lead attorney Jon Praed with the Arlington-based
Internet Law Group.
Collecting e-mail addresses is not by itself illegal, but Praed said the plaintiffs
will be able to link the harvesting to spam e-mails, which are illegal under
federal and state laws. Those laws allow individuals who receive unwanted spam
to seek civil damages.
Praed said legitimate businesses are afraid to post e-mail addresses on their
Web sites for fear that automated Web crawlers will find the addresses, record
them and sell them to spammers who will inundate them with junk e-mail.
Praed said the lawsuit will "focus on the worst of the worst," using
information that Project Honey Pot has already collected and analyzed.
"We have a lot of data, a lot of clusters that have emerged" from
all over the world. The legal discovery process will allow them to track that
data to the actual harvesters, he said.