Email Users Learning to Live with Spam

May 24, 2007

This article is included in these additional categories:

Email | Privacy & Security | Retail & E-Commerce

Spam remains the bane of the internet, but US email users are apparently less bothered by it even as they report the highest volume of spam ever – perhaps because they have grown more sophisticated in dealing with it – according to a new study from the Pew Internet and American Life Project.

Some key findings from Pew’s report:

  • Some 37% of email users surveyed said spam had increased in their personal email accounts, compared with 28% who said so two years ago, and 24% three years ago
  • 29% of those who have a work email account said spam had increased in those accounts, compared with 21% two years ago and 18% three years ago.
  • Only 18%, however, say spam is a big problem, compared with 25% in June 2003.
  • Nearly 3 of 10 (28%) say spam is not a problem, up from 16% four years ago
  • Half (51%) say spam is annoying but not a big problem, compared with 57% in 2003.
  • Those with both work and personal accounts are more annoyed with spam than those with only one type of account.

 pew-spam-increase-decrease.gif

The volume of most offensive of spam – porn – has decreased, and users are becoming more sophisticated about handling spam, according to Pew: 

  • Three times more respondents said porn spam bothered them more than any other kind of spam.
  • Half (52%) of email users report receiving pornographic spam, compared with 63% two years ago and 71% three years ago.
  • Fewer women (46%) than men (58%) say they received porn spam.
  • About two-thirds (68%) say they only rarely open a spam message because they didn’t realize it was spam; 27% say they do so sometimes; 5% say they do so often.
  • Only 4% of email users said they have ordered a product or service from spam email, compared with 6% in 2005, 5% in 2004, and 7% in 2003.
  • Some 71% say they use email providers’ or employers’ spam filters, up from 65% two years ago; 41% say they apply their own filters, up from 33% two years ago.
  • About half (51%) say they check spam folders at least once in a while – and 46% say they hardly ever or never check them.

 pew-reactions-to-spam.gif

Despite the increase in spam, more than ever internet users rely on email, Pew said:

  • Nine of 10 internet users say they use email, same as four years ago.
  • Only 19% of users say spam has reduced their overall email use, compared with 22% in 2005, 29% in 2004, and 25% in 2003.
  • However, more than half question the integrity of email as a result of spam: 55% say spam has made them less trusting of email, compared with 53% in 2005 and 52% in 2003.

The new findings are from a phone survey conducted between February 15 and March 7, 2007, among a nationally representative sample of 2,200 American adults. 1,405 of the respondents were email users. The margin of error on this group is +/- 3 percentage points.

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