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Apr 12 2007   12:22PM GMT

Bluespam: Spam sent to Bluetooth-enabled devices

GuyPardon Guy Pardon Profile: GuyPardon

A TechDirt post from 2005 eerily predicted what’s actually happening in 2007: Bluespam has hit the bigtime. Well, Nascar and young people’s cellphones, anyway. Specifically, as Carlo posted on TechDirt yesterday, the Air Force is “aiming high” with Bluespamming.

Should our spam definition now be extended to unsolicited bulk electronic communication of any kind? Probably not — there’s an active market in creating new terms to describe this kind of solicitation in each medium. In fact, we recorded a podcast last year, “What are Spam, Spim, Sping, Splog and Spit?,” that addressed exactly this expansion.

If we start with WhatIs.com’s definition of spam, unsolicited bulk email (UBE) sent on the Internet, it’s easy to make the extension, though it’s necessary to make UBE more generel, extending it to unsolicited commercial electronic communication (UCEC). Spim is UCEC using instant messenging (IM) software.

SPIT, sometimes known as “vam” for voice spam, UCEC sent over IP telephony. SPIT may be broadcast over VoIP, which I suppose would be “SPoIP,” though we haven’t heard that much.

There’s good news for enterprise VoIP users, however, according to Zeus Kerravala: “Spam and eavesdropping, which is what a lot of them are worried about, is mostly based on consumer voice. That has nothing to do with what goes on behind the firewall, where the main concern is managing performance.” Kerravala is an analyst for the Yankee Group in Boston who wrote a guide to the realities of VoIP security for SearchVoIP.com, so we’re inclined to trust him on this count.

Back to Bluespamming. Using the same formulation from above, Bluspamming is defined as unsolicited commercial electronic solicitations sent over a Bluetooth connection. Is it really spam? TechDirt certainly thinks so:

While there are plenty of people who like to think that marketing is an evil profession, that’s not true at all. Real marketing has tremendous value in figuring out what people want and how to deliver it to them. It’s just that so many people do it so badly (and assume that marketing is more about telling people they want something they don’t) that it has a terrible reputation. That’s why you just have to cringe when some marketers do things so obviously bad that you just know it’s going to continue the downward spiral of the view of what marketing really is about. A few weeks ago, we wrote about a test of a system in the UK called “Bluecasting” which was more accurately described as “Bluespamming”, where terminals were set up to send commercial messages over Bluetooth to unsuspecting people passing by with Bluetooth-enabled mobile phones. The companies behind this plan insist it’s fine because rather than just sending you the commercial message, they first spam you to ask you if it’s okay if they send you a commercial message. For some reason, these folks then thought it was terrific that they only wasted the time of 85% of the people they spammed. Sure, compared to direct mail, that’s a high return, but it’s quite a different situation. Buzzing someone on their phone as they’re walking through a train station is likely to really interrupt them as they’re on their way somewhere. Yet, due to blind marketing-think, the folks behind it still are insisting it’s wonderful and are expanding the program to bug even more people — pretty much guaranteeing that most folks are going to start turning Bluetooth off on their phones. The people behind it are in denial about how annoying this really is. According to the manager of some airport lounges where this will be used: “I think it’s done very well because it enables the customers [to choose]. It doesn’t force it on them.” But, it does force it on users — by pinging them without permission to see if they want the ad. That’s the spam. Being interrupted as they’re trying to do something else. If it was really completely up to the user, they would just put up signs telling people they could request info or content on their phones using Bluetooth. But actively sending them messages via Bluetooth is intrusive and, to many, many people, clearly seen as spam.”

For more context, make sure to review our definitions for Bluejacking and Bluesnarfing and our glossary of ‘casts, which we’ve updated to include “Bluecasting”. For more information about Bluetooth, listen in to our podcast, “What is Bluetooth?,” over at Bitpipe.com (Free registration is required).

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