Dear Aunty Spam: Is the FTC Going to Come After Me?

Dear Aunty Spam,

I just read how the FTC has filed lawsuits against two different groups of email senders (spammers). If these really are spammers, more power to them! But I also read about how a private ISP sued Bob Vila! The man who does “This old house”! Some of my friends have even started putting their home mailing addresses in all of their email, because they say that a new federal spam law, called “CAN-SPAM”, requires it!

Is this right? Do I have to start putting my home mailing address in all my email? Is the FTC going to come after me if I don’t? Can I be sued by an ISP if they don’t like the email I send?

Help! I only use email to talk to my family, friends, and online buddies, and I don’t really want to tell everyone my home address!


Worried Average User

Dear Worried,

The CAN-SPAM Act of 2003, which is the new Federal anti-spam (not to be confused with Aunty Spam!) law, only applies to commercial email. It does not apply to the private, personal email which you send (unless, of course, your private, personal email is sent for a commercial purpose, in which case you do need to be careful to comply with the CAN-SPAM Act. But that’s another question for another day.)

Generally speaking, if you use email only for personal use, and especially if you do not run any email mailing lists, then you don’t have to worry about the provisions of CAN-SPAM. Similarly, nobody, including the FTC or an ISP, can use the CAN-SPAM act to sue you just because they don’t like your email (but this does make Aunty wonder what kind of email you are sending!) You have to have violated the CAN-SPAM law, of which you are in no danger if the email you send is not commercial.

So relax, write to your friends and online buddies all that you want, and remember, practice safe spam-filtering!

Kissy kissy,

Aunty Spam

Questions may be submitted to Aunty Spam by sending email to “aunty at”.

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