Experts Propose ‘Pure Economic’ Solution to eMail Fraud

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A Breakthrough for Beleaguered Consumers and eMarketers. A new economic initiative to eliminate email scams surfaced at the MIT 2006 Spam Conference. Resolving the flaws of AOL's pay-per-email idea, the new plan has no per message cost and gives consumers the power to directly charge abusive senders for bogus email.

Economists and technology experts at the MIT 2006 Spam Conference this week proposed a unique digital currency system to eliminate email fraud, spam and phishing attacks.

Dubbed “sender accountability,” the plan hatched by Vanquish Labs CEO Philip Raymond creates financial barriers to offensive and dangerous email, but does not burden legitimate users with a fee or tax. The underlying economic model, which relies on financial risk not upfront fees to create personal trust relationships among email senders, was validated by Boston University economist Marshal van Alstyne. His research paper is available at http://www.accountabilityinitative.org/thwart.pdf.

As co-founders of the Email Accountability Initiative (http://www.accountabilityinitiative.org), van Alstyne and Raymond have been working independently for several years on an economic antidote to email scams.

Within the next couple of months, the group plans to release a free software plug-in that will allow consumers, businesses and Internet Service Providers to implement sender accountability with little or no upfront expense.

“It’s democracy in action,” says Mr. Raymond. “Individuals, not filters or email companies, should have the power to decide what legitimate email is, and to defend themselves if their privacy or their time is violated.”

Once in place, the sender accountability system encrypts digital markers into email messages as they flow through the ISP’s servers and before they are subjected to spam filters. These markers indicate one of two things: The message is from a trusted party and should be given priority “no filter” treatment; or the message is backed by a personal cash guarantee from the sender.

“Only senders who have not established personal trust are subject to financial consequences, and even they don’t pay for email, instead they risk a cash penalty if their email is deemed to be bogus by the recipient,” adds Raymond. The uniqueness of this economic model is that personal trust relationships are created automatically, eliminating the potential of financial abuse.

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