Pew: Spam’s Not Such a Problem at Work

Contradicting the widespread contention that spam has reached a critical level on corporate e-mail systems, the Pew Internet & American Life Project released a survey finding workers encounter little spam while on the job.

The survey results, culled from a telephone survey of nearly 2,500 Internet users, are used by Pew to argue that spam, while a growing problem for personal e-mail accounts, has not had a pervasive effect on the workplace.

Fifty-three percent of work e-mailers told Pew that nearly all of their incoming mail was work-related, and 71 percent said “a little” of the e-mail they receive at work is spam. The research found nearly 60 percent of respondents receive fewer than 10 e-mail messages per day and half said “none” of their work e-email was spam.

“A small number of the truly inundated work e-mailers have created most of the buzz about e-mail overload,” the report said.

E-mail marketers fret that spam will increasingly drown out legitimate marketing messages, as users become frustrated by clutter and over-aggressive spam filters throw out the good with the bad. A survey earlier this year by Rick Bruner’s Executive Summary and e-mail marketer Quris found e-mail users reporting spam taking up 28 percent of their in-boxes, including their home and work accounts.

BrightMail, a provider of anti-spam software, tracked 5.5 billion spam attacks on its network in a recent month. Jupiter Research, which is owned by the parent company of this Web site, has predicted that by 2007 the average Internet user will receive up to 3,900 unsolicited e-mail messages per day.

But Pew attributes much of the deluge of spam to users’ home accounts, particularly Hotmail, MSN, Yahoo! and AOL. Nearly all of those e-mail providers have taken steps to staunch the flow of spam with improved filters and user-generated blacklists.

Pew said its poll results back up its contention that corporations are doing a fair job of fighting spam, installing e-mail filters and educating employees about spam-prevention techniques, including not verifying their e-mail addresses by opening spam and never posting their corporate e-mail addresses online. For spammers, an e-mail provider such as Hotmail, with tens of millions of users, remains the main target over corporate accounts.