First prize to McAfee for creating the most pointless piece of PR-masquerading-as-research in the recent history of the security industry.
As a thought experiment turned into a jape, this one's not bad on some levels. The company says it is hiring UK and US volunteers to reply to every spam email they receive in a thirty day period, allowing an analysis of how this affects the flow of future spam to their inboxes.
In honour of the anti-fast food documentary, Morgan Spurlock's 'Super Size Me', they are calling it 'Super Spam Me'.
Spammers do care that they reach out to the spammed, knowing that the overwhelming majority of what they send it either filtered out or goes to inboxes that don't exist. Spam is brute force communication – send something to every possible address at every registered sub-domain and then see who replies. A reply is gold-dust because it means the email has reached a real person, and someone stupid enough to reply at all, a statistically rare class of Internet users.
The first giveaway is that the paid volunteers will only number a handful from each country, far too few to provide a valid sample, but a way of keeping the wheeze cheap. The second giveaway is that we already know the result of the experiment. In every instance the volunteers will see an increased level of spam as their replies are either used to generate follow-on communication or their email addresses are sold to other spammers to aim at. Replying to spam means you will with a high degree of certainty receive more spam in future.
The third giveaway is that applicants must apply to McAfee's PR company, if nothing else guaranteeing that they will in future receive a higher volume of PR email.
As experiments go this one's up there with leaving a piece of bread in a toaster way past the browning stage just to see at what point it finally bursts into flames