As much as attention as

As much as attention as the FTC’s new Don’t Call Me, Please, Telemarketers initiative is getting (full disclosure: I signed up for it today and it was extremely easy and frighteningly simple to give away to the government my two telephone numbers) in the news, there is an interesting parallel to this story and the story around spam and spamming, privacy and free speech.
Telephones have been around for about 8 times longer than spam (in my estimation), so certainly it seems time to ask telemarketing companies to leave consumers alone if they so desire. But the question is, how will the Federal Government, likely within the next few years, deal with companies who deliver massive amounts of unwanted emails to consumers. The philosophical difference between telephones and the Internet is a fascinating one. The latter is still more “real,” more intrusive, always-on, and is critical to the privacy and communication of daily living. The latter, however, is none of the above but it’s moving quickly in that direction. Telephones and their “addresses” are simple to pinpoint but it is difficult for a marketer to connect a consumers’ potential interest with an service or good based on telephone history alone. Intelligent Internet marketers, on the other hand, have tremendous amounts of data (both public and private) about our consuming lives, making it all the more difficult for the Fed to interfere.
At what point does the FTC intervene in spam? At the consumer’s computer, at the desk of the marketer, or at the server sending the stuff out. It’s extremely complicated, and while I’m glad that Microsoft et. al. are getting involved in attenuating spam, which admittedly is a horned demon, my fear is that privacy and freedom of speech are also quickly being curtailed by the urge to stop the marketers. The line between not letting companies call or spam you and not letting people call or spam you can be very, very thin.