The European Commission has called on EU member countries to do more, and do better, in fighting spam and other online privacy threats. In a newly published study, commissioned by the EC, it was revealed that almost all EU countries have at least one spam, spyware or malware reporting site for members of the public.

Yet the actual number of prosecuted cases, or occasions of imposed sanctions against privacy lawbreakers, varies considerably from member country to member country despite the EU-wide ban on spam. European law has actually banned spam and spyware since 2002, although you wouldn't know it considering that some 65% of European citizens are still plagued by both. And, of course, that apparent different interpretation of the law between members.

In the report an analysis of some 140 enforcement cases from 22 different member countries highlights the considerable differences between the number of cases per country and the fines imposed. The highest numbers of cases were reported in Spain (39), Slovakia (39) and Romania (20). The highest fines were imposed in the Netherlands (€1 000 000), Italy (€570 000) and Spain (€30 000). However, spammers in countries such as Romania, Ireland, and Latvia received modest fines ranging from hundreds to several thousand Euros.

The EU Commissioner for Information Society and Media, Viviane Reding, says that the figures "show that several EU countries are doing more to enforce online privacy rules" but concedes "spam is an area where we can and must improve for the benefit of internet users in the EU".

Reding argues that the EU needs to step up the fight against spammers and make sure that it adopts "legislation that provides for strong civil and criminal sanctions against spammers".

Not least, I would have thought, a better system of Europe-wide cooperation between countries in order to enforce the law and brings perpetrators to book. The report suggests that the level of cooperation also currently differs strongly between EU countries, with agreements existing in Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, France, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Romania and the UK. Luxembourg and Malta, however, rely purely on informal cooperation. Others seemingly do not cooperate at all.

"I call on EU countries to reinforce their national efforts to fight on-line privacy threats such as spam, spyware and malicious software" Reding concludes "If we can end the spam plague within Europe we will set the example for our neighbouring countries and other parts of the world which are as responsible for spam we receive in Europe".

With spam figures rising and the spammers always quick to adapt to changing market conditions, something needs to be done and done soon.

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About the Author

A freelance technology journalist for 30 years, I have been a Contributing Editor at PC Pro (one of the best selling computer magazines in the UK) for most of them. As well as currently contributing to Forbes.com, The Times and Sunday Times via Raconteur Special Reports, SC Magazine UK, Digital Health, IT Pro and Infosecurity Magazine, I am also something of a prolific author. My last book, Being Virtual: Who You Really are Online, which was published in 2008 as part of the Science Museum TechKnow Series by John Wiley & Sons. I am also the only three times winner (2006, 2008, 2010) of the BT Information Security Journalist of the Year title, and was humbled to be presented with the ‘Enigma Award’ for a ‘lifetime contribution to information security journalism’ in 2011 despite my life being far from over...