Spam costs society at least twice the $20 billion/year that the authors estimate, and probably a great more than that. Their paper is well argued and mostly well researched, however they do make one peculiar and wholly unsupported assertion
False positives … are … so rare that we ignore them in this estimate
which falls down on at least two fronts:
- false-positive errors (legitimate messages not reaching inboxes) occur at a rate of the same order as that at which false-negative errors (spam reaching inboxes) do, and
- false-positive errors inflict more variable, and typically far higher, costs than false-negative errors do.
As part of my work with TrustSphere I’ve been involved in the analysis of email security systems from most vendors and the review of those systems’ assessments of around half a billion messages received by a variety of customer types located in multiple regions and have observed that false-positive errors occur at similar rates in all cases. The consequences of a single false-positive error range from “no impact” through time wasted searching spam folders/quarantines all the way to compliance failures, lost sales, missed deadlines/appointments, loss of trust in an organisation and its infrastructure, angry customers, supply chain disruptions, etc.
Inconveniently, TrustSphere has not yet published its findings in a peer-reviewed journal. Things to look forward to…
- Their assertion really was unsupported: they just say it one time, offer no supporting data and make no further mention of it. This struck me as an odd choice in an otherwise pretty solid paper.
- It occurred to me to wonder how “good” the Journal of Economic Perspectives actually is. It turns out that the Australian Research Council (a statutory body) has actually published a ranking of 20 000 peer-reviewed journals! The Journal receives the highest ranking: A* “Typically an A* journal would be one of the best in its field or subfield…”. It’s worth noting that there is another similarly-named publication – the International Journal of Economic Perspectives – which receives the lowest ranking: C “Tier C includes quality, peer reviewed, journals that do not meet the criteria of the higher tiers.” Sadly, the publication of a ranking ruffled sufficient feathers that no updates have been or will be published. (thanks)