Why Posting Your Email Address in Plain Text is Never a Good Idea
The popular blog TechCrunch was trying to give away 100 free accounts to a web service called Spinvox and was surprised/astounded when a competitor named SimulScribe spammed everyone who participated. What did TechCrunch do wrong? They asked participants to write their email address in the publicly viewable comments.
That begs the question: How fast could a spammer spam if a spammer could find your email address?
In early September of 2006 I wrote a how to post on Setting Up Multiple Gmail Accounts from One Account (also see: How to Access Gmail When It’s Blocked at Work). I created a throw-away Gmail account at 2:36pm on September 10th, 2006 to use as an example in this post.
The first spam in that account was received at 11:12 AM on September 11th, 2006. By the 13th there was 16 spam messages. It has been averaging 160 spam messages a month.
This is not a lot until you consider that this is an email address that appeared on the Internet only once, on one blog post on one web page of a blog that wasn’t that popular at the time. It is not a common word/name and I’ve never used that email address anywhere other than in that post. It takes less than a day for an email address that appears in a web page to start receiving spam.
The TechCrunch commenters should expect a lot more spam than just the note from SimulScribe as a result of their posting their email address online.
What TechCrunch Should Have Done
If you want to collect email addresses for a contest, create an email account specifically for that contest or have a contest email account and filter by subject line. The email will be sent privately between TechCrunch and the contest holder and that will remove any chance of spammers getting the contact information.
Posting Your Email Address On Your Blog
(I’m not blasting the guys at TechCrunch, this is a common mistake that everyone makes. Most people don’t think twice about posting their email address and they really should.)
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