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Although spamming is commonly understood to represent an abuse of e-mail services for commercial gain, arriving at a common definition of spam proves to be challenging. Marcia S. Smith of the Congressional Research Service of the Library of Congress outlines the nuances associated with the term: “To some, it is any commercial e-mail to which the recipient did not “opt-in” by giving prior affirmative consent to receiving it. To others, it is commercial e-mail to which affirmative or implied consent was not given, where implied consent can be defined in various ways (such as whether there is a pre-existing business relationship). Still others view spam as “unwanted” commercial e-mail.” (Marcia S. Smith, “Junk E-Mail”: An Overview of Issues and Legislation Concerning Unsolicited Commercial Electronic Mail (“Spam”), CRS Report for Congress, October 17, 2003) However, spam is defined, it represents a significant annoyance to those receiving it and a burden on the campus network.
Dickinson College Context
Dickinson College currently operates two e-mail servers: Alpha and Exchange. All incoming email is scanned by an anti-spam appliance named Barracuda Spam Firewall. The product analyzes the source and content of each inbound e-mail message, then makes a decision to allow, tag, quarantine, or block. It also blocks e-mail containing known viruses. The filter may be fine tuned by LIS staff along a continuum in which at one extreme all e-mail is allowed and the other in which anything remotely resembling spam is blocked. Since the Barracuda Spam Firewall does not exercise the same discretion as a human being, and spammers work hard to evade filtering, the risk exists of blocking a legitimate e-mail by configuring it in too stringent a way. It is also the case that different members of the campus community view spam differently. Some users want no filtering and others want very stringent filtering, even if that runs the risk of blocking a legitimate email.
It is important to keep in mind that it is not always possible to completely filter all spam, given the resourcefulness of spammers.
Dickinson College Policy
- All inbound e-mail traffic is scanned by a spam filtering product. That product will be configured to block e-mails that unambiguously contain spam and viruses. Given the possible risk of blocking legitimate e-mails, the filter will only block e-mails that unambiguously contain spam or which contain viruses. Other e-mails will be delivered to user e-mail accounts.
- If staff or faculty prefer not to have the filter’s default settings manage inbound e-mail to control spam, either because those setting fail to manage spam to their satisfaction or because there is a desire to see all inbound e-mail, they may request LIS to supply them with a personal spam filter. Such users are strongly advised to attend a brief orientation to the filter and its settings. This filter will permit the user to configure and reconfigure their filter setting based on personal preference. The filter will also send a daily or weekly summary of filtered e-mail, depending on the preference of the user. It should be noted that e-mails containing viruses are blocked by the College spam filter and will not be delivered to user e-mail accounts regardless of how the individual spam filter is configured.
- Inbound student e-mail will be managed by the College spam filter using its default settings.