Dear Aunty Spam: What is Website “Address Harvesting”, and How Can I Prevent It?

Dear Aunty Spam,

What is website “address harvesting”, and how can I prevent it?


Ima Webmaster

Dear Ima,

The term “address harvesting”, in this context, refers to the unsavoury practice of finding and copying email addresses from the pages of websites. You know all of those lovely “contact us” webpages which everyone has? Well, spammers just love to pick those tasty little ripe email addresses from the orchard of your website.

The recently enacted CAN-SPAM act of 2003 makes it illegal to send spam to email addresses which have been harvested, and provides for enhanced sentencing (would you like fries with that?) for a spamming defendant who is found guilty of address harvesting.

But, like that’s going to stop it from happening.

So here are a few tips, dear Ima, which will allow users to contact you through your website, while not allowing your email address to fall into the wrong hands:

1. Employ the use of javascript to create your email address ad hoc when user runs the script in order to submit mail to you.

2. Use some form of mailform (cgi, php, etc.), but be wary of versions which have security issues.

3. Provide an html form through which users can contact you, as an alternative to email.

4. Alter your email address on your website to make it unreadable by machines, such as substituting the word “at” for “@”, adding a character string to the email address which you instruct the user to remove, or writing it in Klingon with a pointer to an online Klingon dictionary.

5. Display the email address as a graphic, rather than text.

There is a wealth of information about each of these methods available on the web.

Good luck, and remember, practice safe spam-filtering!

Kissy kissy,

Aunty Spam

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

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