Government folly – especially when committed with the best of intentions – has long been fodder for British comedy troupes and socio-political writers alike. They’ll probably have a field day with a proposed federal anti-phishing bill – one that simply parrots other laws that make phishing illegal and commands marketers engaged in best practices to do what they already do.
Last week a group of U.S. senators – led by Ted ”An Internet Was Sent By My Staff” Stevens of Alaska – introduced the Anti-Phishing Consumer Protection Act, a nationwide law that will make it illegal to steal account information by pretending to be a bank, credit card company, or other financial institution.
It may be news to not-so-Web-savvy senators, but phishing is one of the more nefarious uses of spam email. Fear of it has long made consumers wary of unsolicited email messages. Marketing best practices developed long ago as a result with the aim of gaining consumer trust.
While legitimate marketers welcome anything to battle spam, phishing, and other abuse of email, they’ll also probably react to the federal Anti-Phishing act with a yawn. First, good-guys are already engaged in best practices that follow things mentioned in the act, such as registering their companies’ identifying information (name, physical address, etc.) with the domain names they own. Second and more importantly, regulations that are anti-fraud and/or outlaw deceptive business practices already cover phishing.
Indeed, U.S. bureaus like the Federal Trade Commission and the Justice Department have successfully gone after phishers under those current laws. Submitting this new bill is kind of like proposing a law against ”deliberately stabbing a person to death with a knife.” First-degree murder laws already cover such situations, and even cover similar situations regardless of the weapon used.
True, an extra law does offer redundancy protection. Let’s think of another crime, like child abuse. Against a horrific parent or guardian, a prosecutor will typically file one count for each instance of abuse, and each type of abuse, that can be proven. This way, if the defense convincingly says, ”Well, that specific situation didn’t happen and here’s reasonable doubt why,” the defendant still has X-number of other situations to account for. So if a phisher somehow can worm his or her way out of one allegation, it’s comforting to know that another law could trip the scumbag up.
Somehow, though, I don’t think the senators behind this bill were thinking that logically. Remember, Mr. Stevens also famously described the Internet as ”a series of tubes.” But anything that bolsters current laws and industry-wide best practices is better than government actions with no point at all. Ministry Of Silly Walks, anyone?
Marketing Communications Manager, mobileStorm
”I’d rather you text me”