Phony Phone Messages: SMS Spam

Posted on August 31, 2010 in Specials

By Aparajita Paul:

I don’t know who this Shubham is, but he really is the face of New India! Shubham, sent me an error-ridden SMS recently that read: “Alright…roll no is…shubham…”. To cut the chase he continued passing on SMS spam.

Since my family didn’t know S of this Shubham, my dad decided to give that creepo a call and demand him the reason of sending us the SMSes. Well, well, surprises of surprise he made quite a smart impression of himself – that he was dumb. Well, d-uh!

Dad – Hello, do we know you?
Shubham [or whatever the name of the person was] – [silence]
D – Do YOU know us?
S – [silence]
D – Are you a student or something like that, huh?
S – [silence]
D – Well, Right, give me your details so I can lodge a police complaint against you.
S – [silence]

Dad disconnects with exasperation! Paisen kya paed pe ugte hai! But the words “I can lodge a police complaint against you” made me go thinking. Pavan Duggal, India’s leading authority on laws that govern IT thinks that people – like Shubham – can very well tell victims to go to the police because under the IT Act 2000 of India, they really can’t register an FIR against him for sending them SMS spam. The Act, while being stringent on e-commerce transactions, maintains a deafening silence on spams and privacy, and I’m afraid that Shubham knows this pretty well.

Shubham represents a band of IT Act manipulators who know spam is unethical and immoral, but in no way ‘illegal’. I really don’t know a single person who hasn’t or doesn’t recieve spams. Yet, we only either privately crib about it, or worse, ignore it as another fact of life.

Harsh Pathak, who got good press because he filed a PIL against telemarketing calls, missed out on spam SMSes and emails. Why Pathak appealed only against voice calls and not against SMSes may remain a mystery but Duggal emphatically states that spam too should be brought under the ambit of civil and criminal liability.

Well, I’m not saying that hey look I’m a regular victim of spam [thank God NOT!] but I completely agree with the need for iron-casting laws on SMS spamming. We’ve already entered the era of low cost texting, and it’s high time authorities took notice of the inherent dangers of spim and take actions to protect our privacy and rights.

The problem is, in a technologically illiterate nation headed mostly by equally illiterate ministers how do we make out leaders sit up and take notice of this gradually spreading evil?

I believe spimming is illegal in the States, some sort of legal recourse can be taken against it by victims which is yet again a long drawn process. But whatever be it can this happen in India? [of all places?!] Besides it may be in the media’s limelight for a day or two and then everybody gets back to their respective jobs. For example has a single print publication or a TV channel followed up on the “Marketing Calls on Mobiles” case, huh? The spam cases as and when they happen require as much media attention as much as an individual’s.

Given current trends, mobiles seem to be the ideal gateway for the Indian masses into the digisphere, as these gadgets offer cheap computing and connectivity to a number far greater than those with access to a PC. Therefore, spimming will only increase exponentially as the market expands. It’ll be compounded when cellphones get loaded with the preferred iNet gateway, which is inevitable! It needs to be nipped in the bud…N.O.W.!

There isn’t a law solution …I mean, on what grounds would you punish them? Sending unsolicitated SMS? If there were indeed such a law I think it would be the most misused law in the country, as it could be used against any and everybody!

I find it hard to visualize technocrats putting up a ‘dharna’ to ban SMS spam! Even if they do, will the lawmakers understand what the hullabaloo is all about? Nor would politicians ever understand the significance of such a law. Whatever the case may be, the situation is definitely going to get worse in the years to come! The solution I think must be implemented at the service provider’s end as in the case of spam! Spamming in any form is a menace that deserves an axe and the earlier the better, I say!

The time, thus, has come to join hands against spammers. We could start waging small battles like calling each spammer back and giving him a piece of our mind and a page out of our book until he cringes; and if we do keep waging these small battles – all of us – we may just win the war!

We really mustn’t lose hope. With technologies such as DomainKeys and progressive service providers instituting a “Do Not Disturb” regime [Vodafone, for instance], there may still be a way to fight away jerks such as Shubham.