Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Weird Science

Canadian investigators Peter Gernburd and Alejandro R. Jadad set up some e-mail accounts without spam filters to see what they'd catch. They got more than 14,000 spam e-mails in November, of which they deemed about 1/3 to be for "health related products." As we all know, although they don't break it down for us, the number one health problem in the world, based on analysis of spam, is deficient penis size and/or erectile endurance.

Then these brave souls set out to actually order the products on sale. They found 19 different active web links that purported to process orders. Most of the products were not delivered, and in fact quite a few of the web sites failed to process their credit card order, which seems an odd way to make money. They ended up getting nine products delivered, with only one of the sites actually ripping them off -- well, that's if you count the "natural products" that were delivered as non-rip offs. They received benzodiazapines, and a synthetic opioid called Tramadol, as well as a couple of witches' brews purported to enlarge the deficient body part.

They wonder whether the Internet will render national regulatory regimes irrelevant. It doesn't seem that way to me, at least not the spam component of the Internet, unless the spam industry develops a higher standard of reliability in delivering the goods. Meanwhile, they need to work on better methods of actually taking our money. Until they get that part figured out, I'm not all that worried. And for me, Postini is doing an excellent job of steering all this crap to the dustheap of history without my even being aware of it.

So my take is, this is actually not a big problem. There will always be a few suckers out there, but they're gonna get taken one way or another and this doesn't seem to be a particularly effective way, at least not so far. And if a few people manage to get benzos this way that haven't been prescribed by their doctor, well, they could have gotten them on the street or, most likely, just gone to a doctor and complained of anxiety. Hell, my mother's doctor pushed benzos on her without here even asking. At least it's easy to say no to the spammers.

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