Spam Is Harmful to the Environment, Too

Not only is spam damaging to your inbox, it’s damaging to the environment, too.

That’s the conclusion of a report issued today by computer security company McAfee, Inc. McAfee commissioned climate-change consultancy ICF International to measure the energy used to create, view, store and filter spam e-mail messages in 11 countries. Among the findings of the “Carbon Footprint of Spam” study:

  • The annual energy consumed in generating and filtering spam is 33 billion kilowatt-hours–equivalent to the amount of electricity used to power 2.4 million homes.
  • The green house gas emissions from a single spam message is comparable to the emissions from driving a car three feet. Globally, though, these emissions add up to 3.1 million cars consuming 2 billion gallons of gasoline.
  • Approximately 25 billion kilowatt-hours could be saved each year by using existing spam-filtering technology.

Of course, McAfee has a lot to gain through higher adoption rates of spam-filtering software. Nonetheless, there is a significant environmental cost of all of the computing power used for spam.

McAfee’s Web site has some practical tips for avoiding spam. In addition, they track current popular spam message subject lines. On the list this week is “Relaxation, religion or chocolate?” Hmm. Haven’t received that one yet.


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