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Thread: Legality of This Website?

  1. #1
    Zash's Avatar
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    Legality of This Website?

    Somebody filed a complaint against a website hosted on my web host. They are claiming that the website promotes hacking, SPAM, and harvests emails from Hi5 accounts and refuses to take them down.

    The site is http://hi5email.info

    So far, I can see that they are harvesting email addresses - but I do not have any proof that they hack/SPAM (I have requested the accuser for further proof). I checked their email logs, and there have been no messages sent directly from the server.

    Is this illegal? Is this grounds for suspension? I asked my friend, and he says email harvesting is not illegal as emails are public record - and I do not have proof yet to suspend on grounds of hacking/SPAM.

    According to Wikipedia:
    In The United States of America, the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 [3] made it illegal to initiate e-mail to a recipient where the electronic mail address of the recipient was obtained:

    * Using an automated means that generates possible electronic mail addresses by combining names, letters, or numbers into numerous permutations.

    * Using an automated means to extract electronic mail addresses from an Internet website or proprietary online service operated by another person, and such website or online service included, at the time the address was obtained, a notice stating that the operator of such website or online service will not give, sell, or otherwise transfer addresses maintained by such website or online service to any other party for the purposes of initiating, or enabling others to initiate, electronic mail messages.
    I assume this falls under the above?

    Update: I just found a YouTube video explaining how this site works: [ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yv5MnBeKUdE]YouTube - gaseste emailul unui profil de hi5[/ame]

    Apparently, you enter the URL of the Hi5 profile and it automatically reveals the email address for you.
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    Do you know how the site is obtaining the e-mail addresses? If they are puling them from a spam list, the site may technically be illegal.

    I do not know of a way to obtain a list of e-mail addresses assigned to a domain name through PHP or some other legitimate method. Is there something that I am missing?

    Given the wording that you highlighted in the CAN-SPAM act, your friend is wrong about the legality of harvesting e-mail addresses. E-mails are not a matter of public record. I
    don't know of anywhere where I can obtain a list of all e-mail addresses. Content and images on a web site are also public, but are protected by copyright laws.

    I always thought that the CAN-SPAM act was focused on the transmission of unauthorized e-mails and not the collection of addresses.

    There must be a legal forum where you can post the question. This looks like a gray area.
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  3. #3
    Zash's Avatar
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    I believe it is in fact illegal because as the above quote says, you can't use automated means of extracting email addresses from websites, especially if you do not have permission from the email address owner nor the website owner. This site is doing just that.
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    I would go the the .gov posting of the law rather than relying on Wikipedia.

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    Zash's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bogart View Post
    I would go the the .gov posting of the law rather than relying on Wikipedia.
    I did, it's quoted correctly.
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    bogart (8 March, 2010)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Zash View Post
    I did, it's quoted correctly.
    Then it looks like you have your answer. Based upon the wording of the law, the site is engaged in illegal activities.

    I learned something new about the CAN-SPAM act. Now if the CAN-SPAM act actually did something to reduce the amount of spam, that would really be nice.
    "Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote." -- Benjamin Franklin


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    bogart (8 March, 2010)

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