In one of the stupidest moves I’ve seen a local business make in a long time, the X Lounge blanketed UVa with spam today, apparently sending thousands of e-mails to UVa employees. The 7.1kb message appeared to originate from The Event Company, who shares an address with the downtown restaurant. The e-mail didn’t even make a gesture at compliance with the CAN-SPAM Act, the federal law that makes precisely this sort of thing illegal. It appears that all e-mail addresses were harvested from UVa’s online staff phone book, which is maintained for the convenience of employees. I received the e-mail via a UVa address that I do not use for anything. I don’t give it out, I don’t send e-mail under it, and the only place it’s listed anywhere is in that UVa LDAP directory.
The X Lounge can expect a pretty stiff upbraiding from UVa’s network administrators tomorrow. If they’re lucky, they may get off with reimbursing the university for their bandwidth costs. But if they catch the UVa postmaster on a bad day — and with the number of complaints bound to roll in, it may be a bad day tomorrow, indeed — they may find themselves on the wrong end of a formal complaint to to the Federal Trade Commission.
Writing a script to dig through UVa’s staff directory and then sending e-mail to every one of them is both illegal and a really, really bad idea. It takes a special kind of stupid not to know that.