Sunday, March 25, 2007

Yahoo footer turns a meal (well, email) into spam

Almost an anagram, that.

I started a new job a few months ago, which has taken a real toll on my blogging, and also on wading through my 'probably spam' folder. So surprise, when I was looking for something yesterday I found a raft of emails I receive (or not) from friends sending mail through Yahoo accounts.

Best I can tell, some of the ads Yahoo is injecting into the footer of valid messages from my friends are twigging my trainable filter. I suppose Yahoo footers are old news, but they haven't bit my filters before, perhaps because I stayed on top of things a bit more in the past.

Imagine getting an email with some reasonable text on top, and text like this underneath.
Now that's room service! Choose from over 150,000 hotels in 45,000 destinations on Yahoo! Travel to find your fit.
Here's another one:
Get your own web address. Have a HUGE year through Yahoo! Small Business.
This follows a classic spam pattern in which the spammer is prefacing random sections of real text on a spam message to get it past a filter. Filters are getting pretty good at not falling for this. I especially like the all-caps 'HUGE'.

I gotta say, I'm intrigued that Yahoo is doing this. First, what a stupid thing to do if you want your users' emails actually get to their destinations. If you care. Second, the recipients of the messages haven't opted in to receiving a marketing message from Yahoo. There isn't an opt-out link on this marketing message.  The acceptance of marketing-in-exchange-for-service is a reasonable one, but it is the message senders that have made that deal, not the recipients.

I figure California's anti-spam law didn't go far enough.  It only seems to treat whole messages that are unsolicited - not adding commercial messages to other messages. Imagine if every mail relay the message goes through were to add a header. Such is just as valid as what Yahoo is doing at the origination.  Think about how acceptable similar behavior would be in non-e-life. As I leave my BART train, a barker slaps a sticker on my backpack that advertises BART as I walk around town. When I buy a CD a record store, I find that there is a 10 second ad for the store attached to the end of each song.

For practicality alone, I guess I could whitelist yahoo-originated email in the hopes of actually receiving email from my friends. Not.

To add a dose of irony, here is a Yahoo footer someone else complained about:
All New Yahoo! Mail � Tired of Vi@gr@! come-ons? Let our SpamGuard protect you.
A search on "Yahoo Footer" shows that Yahoo will even extort sell its users a product to take the footers off, so you don't spam your friends by sending them mail. Charming.

Friends don't let friends use Yahoo.

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