Spam - how to protect yourself from unwanted content?

Service Business

On the basis of the Act on the provision of electronic services, spam is defined as unsolicited commercial information addressed to a designated recipient who is a natural person by means of electronic communication, in particular e-mail. Many of us see this as mass mailing that we do not expect at all. The vast majority of spam sent is commercial content, i.e. all kinds of offers for the sale of products or services. Spam can also be generated by political parties, religious unions or non-profit organizations whose main goal is to let as many people as possible learn about their activities.

Spam can also be very dangerous for the user, as spamming is often one of the stages of cybercriminals' illegal activity. E-mail messages in this category require the recipient to send a reply message often containing his personal data, click on a properly crafted link or launch an attachment that installs malware that allows the collection of information about the user. So how to defend yourself against it?

How do spammers send spam?

In order to know how to protect yourself against this undesirable phenomenon, you need to understand how violations perpetrators operate. The most important stage in the field of sending unsolicited commercial information is creating a database of people to whom it will be addressed. Spammers do this in several different ways. It is popular to use robots that search the internet to find published e-mail addresses, e.g. on social networks or message boards. Breaking into a company's computer system is often associated with the theft of address databases, which are then sold on the black market. It is also possible to legally buy databases of e-mail addresses. They are usually created on portals that provide services, access to which depends on providing an e-mail address. So, as you can see, you don't have to bother to send spam.

Spam - how do email users protect themselves?

It is true that nothing can save us from spam more than our own caution. To protect our privacy, we should only provide e-mail addresses to trusted senders. Instead of sending a message from a private e-mail address, use the contact forms on the website. To avoid spam, a good solution is also to create an additional address for the purpose of disclosing it on the web - e.g. in chat rooms or in online stores. Hiding your address on social networking pages will work similarly. The e-mail address that we use when logging in to various blogs, forums or websites can be encoded by entering the address in a way that is incomprehensible to robots searching for e-mail addresses - e.g. jankowalkski.mał or by showing it in the form of a picture.

It is desirable to use anti-spam filters, not to reply to spam messages, not to open advertising links in e-mails, and to send messages to several people using the "hidden message" option. Before clicking "I accept", you should carefully read all types of contracts, regulations and only on the basis of their provisions consent to the processing of data. It is also recommended to use programs that protect your computer against sending unsolicited e-mail. These programs are often available for free on the web.

Spam and legal protection

Sending unsolicited commercial information violates the constitutional right to privacy. That is why there are a number of regulations in the Polish legal system to protect us against spam:

  • the Act of 18 July 2015 on the provision of electronic services prohibits the sending of unsolicited commercial information. At the same time, the Act stipulates that commercial information is considered to be ordered, if the recipient has consented to receive such information, in particular, has provided an e-mail identifying him / her for this purpose (Article 10 (2)). Therefore, prior and express consent of the client to send commercial information is required,

  • the Act of April 16, 1993 on Combating Unfair Competition; from the content of Art. 16 sec. 1 point 5, it can be concluded that spam will be advertising that is burdensome and imposed on recipients against their will,

  • Act of August 23, 2007 on counteracting unfair market practices; in accordance with Art. 9 point 3, aggressive market practices are those that are burdensome and not caused by the consumer's actions or omissions, inducing to purchase products by telephone, fax, e-mail or other means of distance communication, except for the enforcement of contractual obligations, to the extent permitted by applicable regulations ,

  • on the basis of the Act of February 16, 2007 on competition and consumer protection, spamming may be treated as a practice that violates the collective interests of consumers,

  • also the Act of August 29, 1997 on the protection of personal data allows the processing of personal data only if the data subject agrees,

  • the provisions of the Act of 2 July 2004 on the freedom of economic activity are not respected by spammers, according to which, in every commercial message, the entrepreneur is obliged to provide at least the following data in the offer: the entrepreneur's company; tax identification number (NIP); the registered office and address of the entrepreneur,

  • the Act of May 30, 2014 on consumer rights changed the content of paragraph 1.Art. 172 of the Telecommunications Law, which received the following wording:

It is forbidden to use telecommunications terminal equipment and automatic calling systems for the purposes of direct marketing, unless the subscriber or end-user has given their prior consent.

Some of the above-mentioned laws have serious consequences (mainly financial) for breaking the ban on sending unsolicited commercial information such as spam. The Telecommunications Law Act in Art. 209 provides for a fine imposed by the President of the Office of Electronic Communications by way of an administrative decision for failure to fulfill the obligation to obtain consent. The amount of the fine may be as high as 3% of the punished entity's income earned in the previous calendar year. Pursuant to the Act on Providing Services by Electronic Means, spamming is an offense punishable by a fine of up to PLN 5,000. In the event of an infringement, the President of the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection may issue an appropriate administrative decision recognizing the practice as infringing collective consumer interests and order it to be discontinued. In the decision, the President of the Office may specify measures to remove the ongoing effects of infringement of collective consumer interests. If the entrepreneur does not comply with the orders, the President of the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection may impose a fine of up to 10% of the revenue earned in the accounting year preceding the year in which the fine was imposed.