I've been having a problem with spam lately that is a direct consequence of the technical decisions taken by two very different companies. One of them is an ISP and the other is an online chat website.
The difficulties started a few months ago when I started to receive e-mails from the enigmatically named Faceparty Mailbot telling me, or rather, someone called Siany that there was a new message waiting for me from another Faceparty member. I immediately knew what the problem was—I occasionally get other people's e-mails because of the way my ISP (Freeserve) handles user names.
When you sign up with Freeserve you have to pick a user name that becomes the part of your e-mail address after the @ symbol. So my user name is “topley.freeserve.co.uk”. E-mail addressed to any address that ends with that user name will come to me. Unfortunately Freeserve seem to allow other people to register using the same name, which means that I get the odd incorrectly addressed message.
Some of it has been quite varied and entertaining. For example, I've had a farmer enquiring about the history of some livestock, someone's camping holiday photographs and even a naughty picture of someone's wife! Funny, that gentleman didn't respond when I e-mailed him to point out that he'd reached the wrong person…
It appeared that this was another case of mistaken identity and that this Siany person had signed up to The Biggest Party on Earth ™ using the wrong e-mail address. Not a problem, I thought, I'll simply contact Faceparty and get them to contact Siany to tell her that she needs to change her contact details. Faceparty have a contact form on their website which lets you select a relevant department and then enter your message, which I duly did. After receiving a standard, auto–responder:
Thank you for writing to Faceparty! This letter acts as confirmation that we have received your email. We aim to respond to all queries within 5 working days, or 48 hours if you have Cool Tools or your enquiry is billing related.”
—I received this message:
“Thank you for your email. Faceparty has a strict no spam policy. We are governed by the EU Directive on Data Protection and the Data Protection Act 1998.
We give you full control to choose if, when and why you receive emails from us. You can choose exactly why we email you & opt out of newsletters or message alerts by logging in to your account and choosing 'Privacy Settings' from the 'My Settings' menu.
More information on this subject can be found in our website's Help section.
This letter is an automated response based upon the department you chose and keywords in your letter. Because your letter could be dealt with automatically, you will not receive a personal reply and your original message has now been deleted. We hope this reply has been of help!”
—Well no, it hasn't been actually! I tried to contact them again, this time choosing a different department and I got the same response. It would appear that all of their e-mails are automatically generated based on keywords and that there is no way to reach a real live human being at Faceparty (hmm…maybe there aren't any?)
By now I was getting sick and tired of the daily flood of e-mails for Siany, so I had no choice but to join the wretched Biggest Party on Earth ™ myself and contact her directly. I signed up (using fake details of course) and got in touch with Siany who kindly agreed to use her own e-mail address as part of her contact details. I subsequently received several bleeding heart e-mails from my old friend the Faceparty Mailbot telling me that I hadn't created my profile or uploaded my photo, and that if I didn't within four weeks then my account would be deleted, but I consigned them to the bit bucket. Because of poor technical decisions made by both Freeserve and Faceparty, a simple invitation to chat had become just another part of the spam problem.
Update: a few days ago this message appeared in my Inbox:
It's great to hear that you've joined us! Welcome to Faceparty - Your life is about to change.”
—Now why do I get the feeling that mine is too?