AOL spam: damned statistics?

Today’s AOL press release about spam volumes makes surprising reading.

To begin with, it talks about how AOL’s spam filters are better than they were last year. One would hope so, but we say well done to AOL, nevertheless.

But after that, AOL said some very odd things. It’s a complicated area and we can’t help but to presume that someone at AOL has been confused by statistics.

AOL said that it received 2.2 million user complaints about spam in
2004 vs. 11 million in 2003. We believe that the reduction
is caused by a combination of jaded people’s decreased urge to complain
and AOL’s decline in subscriber numbers.

The other statistic that’s hard to understand is that AOL blocked 2.4
billion spams per day in 2003 vs. 1.2 billion in 2004. That makes no
sense at all. In general, unfiltered spam volumes have at least doubled
over the last 12 months, not halved. AOL ascribes this to spammers giving up
sending to AOL addresses. This goes against our research on spammer
behavior. We see very little filtering of spammer lists.

The "state of the art" in spam filtering has gotten much, much
better. This is what will eventually rid us of the scourge of email
spam — spam will not get delivered, meaning that people won’t buy from
spammers, leading to the end of the economic incentive to spam.

One Trackback

  1. By MSNBC on December 29, 2004 at 9:46 AM

    AOL reports rare good news in spam fight

    “This is totally the reverse of everyone else’s experience,” said Richi Jennings, a spam analyst with Ferris Research. “It’s a complicated area and I must presume that someone at AOL has been confused by statistics.” Jennings suggested that perhaps AOL…

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