If there is a message that comes out loud and clear from this newspaper’s series on the economics and legality of SMS spam, it is simply this. There. Is. No. Respite. And a Do Call Registry, where people willing to receive such messages register, simply will not work.
There are many entities that have to share the blame for this state of affairs, where it would appear that nothing can be done to prevent junk messages from Unicef, assorted medical laboratories and real estate firms, and the makers of “Sauna belts”, vending their wares.
India’s telecom regulator is to blame for its effete behaviour in curbing this menace, and the completely ineffectual Do Not Call Registry it maintains.
Banks, telecom firms, credit card companies and others who have access to customer data are to blame for deliberately flouting all tenets of privacy and sharing entire databases with telemarketeers.
The telemarketeers and sellers of bulk SMSes (who often throw in databases) themselves need to be blamed for not following several guidelines of the telecom regulator that aim to prevent SMS spam.
The biggest culprits, however, are telecom firms that sell bandwidth to these purveyors of mass SMSes. This may be a bit like preventing the sale of guns to stop people from getting killed, but is, in truth, far more effective. Knives kill as well as guns; but few alternatives are as cost-efficient, pesky or penetrative as SMSes. Direct mail, for instance, is a far more expensive proposition. A world where telecom firms do not sell this bandwidth will be one bereft of spam SMSes.
This newspaper has hit upon a way for harassed individuals to get back (and hopefully make telcos stop selling this bandwidth to the SMS mafia). A random survey of the Mint newsroom indicates that most junk SMSes are sent on capacity sold by Tata Teleservices’ Andhra and Delhi operations. Maybe the way to stop this would be to publish the telephone number of the CEO of the company in this paper, and on its website, and simply ask harassed SMS receivers to reply with a tit for every tat.
How should purveyors of spam SMSes be dealt with? Tell us at firstname.lastname@example.org