The spam epidemic has breached the tolerance limit of people all over - and while it is a mere annoyance for many, increasingly spam is a source of more sinister and potentially destructive activity (read Should we be frightened of spam?).
The volume of spam may (or may not) have peaked, but the problem is serious and governments round the world have introduced measures to combat it: the proposed STEPS in Hong Kong, follows in the footsteps of the UK's Telecoms Data Protection Directive, EU rules, and the weaker US CAN-SPAM legislation). Vendors including Microsoft have made proposals, and there are steps users can take to avoid spam, (read this white paper).
And now it's mobile
On a personal level, I've found myself suffering from spam of a different kind that can only be described as downright rank. But in this case it's not my e-mail inbox that is gorging itself on chunks of indeterminate processed chunks of cooked swine, but my Nokia 6230 phone.
In recent months, my daily intake of unwanted and indecipherable text messages (as my Chinese-reading ability is limited to "roast pork over rice") has doubled or trebled. It's another spamocopia, but this time, it's on my mobile, which trembles and vibrates under assault! Annoying? Extremely!
But I'm lucky compared to my cousin, who recently had to change her mobile number - just like any hapless Netizen with a spammed-silly Hotmail account. This putrid new flavor of spam somehow hijacked her mobile.
She first complained of getting incessant calls from dodgy unknown sources. Then she discovered that her phone had become a mobile spam server dishing out SMS text messages to individuals in her phonebook. I myself received one such message while overseas, asking me to urgently call her back. She'd never sent such a message (a similar Trojan sends SMS messages from the victim's PC).
Unsolicited voicemails suck
But my current mobile bete noir is the egregious practice of unsolicited calls on my mobile. Who are these people who stealthily leave pre-recorded voicemail messages promoting the use of ludicrous products and services, and how did they get my number? Often these messages require you to listen right to the end of the drivel before you can delete it. Then there are the insufferable telemarketers who spew sales pitches as though they were in some Olympic speech-sprint event-I tend to say "dah chor deenwa" and thumb the red button, no thanks!
The mobile operators themselves continue to push new services, which can be useful, but can also be a pain in the ass. At one particularly busy time, I simply accepted whatever free service was offered (yes, I should have listened more closely) to placate the hyperactive salesperson, only to find that the normal "phone-is-ringing" tone a caller hears was replaced by a raucous, mewling up tempo pop number. By that evening I received calls from a number of people - including my parents - questioning my sanity and state of mind. Is this what technology is for? I think not! I then had to spend more time in voicemail-hell getting the service provider (who I'll spare by not - naming) to make my phone sound normal, when it's ringing, again, so that callers could call me, which is what a phone is FOR.
And the scams are coming
But even this has been topped, as I've recently been the target of a vicious and devious scam. Recently, people who seem to have studied at some Nigerian Scam university, have been calling, purporting to offer me prizes that I'd unknowingly won through unknown means. After hearing the promises of hotel coupons, large discounts and meal vouchers at reputable restaurants, I was intrigued and listened on to the lightspeed ramblings of the marketer - much of which I still couldn't decipher for you now.
But after much listening (and frustration) I realised this was in fact a con to appear in person to collect said prizes. When the speed-jabbering drone finally mentioned a 90-minute wait at the drop point, I came to my senses and hung up so fast that I didn't even take time for a "thank you...bye!" Later I learned that these increasingly common ploys are aimed at drawing the gullible public (like me) into absurd surveys or poor-value purchases.
We need a filter
There must be some way to end this stream of chaff. I could go the route of my cousin who decided enough was enough and changed her number. Is there no other way? How about some special caller ID function to help filter out unwanted calls and SMS messages? Perhaps a rating system based on the number of previously received calls or accepted messages? I'm no tycoon, but like everyone else in this busy city we call home, my time is important. It should not be wasted by petty hustlers seeking a quick buck and using my e-communication infrastructure to spam me with their unwanted sales pitches.
Suddenly, my Web browser seems to wander over to smashmyphone.com a bit more than perhaps it ought to...
Additional material from Peter Judge, Techworld.