February 15, 2006 (Vol. 26, No. 4)


Strong Points: A way to fight spam
Weak Points: Ethically questionable

Every now and then I find a site, which has such a wide audience and addresses a broad Internet-related concern that I feel compelled to write about it, even though it doesn’t directly deal with biotechnology. The issue I’m talking about is the need to register at sites. I’ve complained about this on numerous occasions because of the tendency of some sites to sell that information, ultimately generating spam to visitors. Yes, I realize there are other reasons for registration and other uses of the information, but spam is a common problem. One approach to combating the spam issue is taken by BugMeNot.com, which provides fake login information for many sites requiring registration. While I don’t necessarily condone fighting one evil (misuse of registration) with another (deception), I confess that I did try it just to see if it worked. Sure enough, I could log in to a site with the fake info provided. Is this ethical and a fair way to fight spam? I won’t touch that one. You decide.

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