Definitions, Statistics, Law, Learn more about spam


"Spamming" or " Spam", is the massive, automatic and sometimes repeated sending, of unsolicited e-mails, to persons with whom the sender has never had contact and which e-mail addresses he got in a irregular way (Definition from the CNIL).

The CNIL reminds that you should not confuse Spam and:

- Advertisement: is not considered as spam, the sending of messages by a body which proceeded to a loyal collection of e-mail addresses, that is when the Internet users were informed, during the collection of their e-mail address, that their address would be used in notably commercial purposes or transferred to third parties for similar purposes; and they were instructed to accept or to oppose to it by a simple means (checkbox, sending of an email or a mail).

- Newsletter: is not considered as spam the delivery of a newsletter sent from a site which the Internet user joined beforehand.

The CNIL indeed makes clear that spamming, because it violates, without doubt, the principles of personal loyalty and the legitimacy of the data gathering, is definitely against the Computer and Liberties laws.


As mailboxes are flooded with spams on a daily basis, articles keep being published stating the dimension of the phenomenon. Spammers will keep making noise about themselves!

According to Radicati Group, The number of spams sent in the world in 2003 was 15 billions. Since the beginning of year 2004, this figure has reached 35 billions.

According to IDC (21/04/2004) "Organizations that have 5000 email users but no antispam strategy lose on average 10 minutes every day per end user and, for every member of the IT team, 43 minutes ".

IDC estimates that the proportion of spams on the number of emails sent every day in North America is 57 %.

The law

According to the law this is what we need to consider:

The French Computer and Liberties law of January 6th, 1978 (modified by the law of January 30th, 2002 to conform to the community law) puts forward two main rules:

1- The need for companies to publish their list of e-mailer to the CNIL, in defect, a penalty of 3 years of detention and 45 000 € of fine is applied according to paragraph 226-16 of the penal code.
2-The respect of rules for collecting e-mail addresses. The non compliance is punished by 5 years of detention and 300 000 € of fine according to paragraph 226-18 of the penal code.

The European directive of July 12th, 2002 describes three main principles:

1-Opt-in: system of preliminary assent.
2-The sender must not mask its identity.
3-The right of opposition or opt-out: the recipient has to have the possibility of making stop, in a simple way and without cost, the sending of e-mails.

The current French legislation puts forward some principles for the rights of information and the right of opposition. The law for the confidence in the digital economy (LEN) of June 21st, 2004 and the precision, made by the CNIL during the February 17th, 2005 session, on its interpretation carry on with the “opt-in” approach for communication towards individuals and the “opt-out” for email prospecting towards professionals. For more details consult our article on the border between prospecting and spam.


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