Toward the top of my spam folder, I have messages asking if I’d like to lose weight fast, if I’d like to make an extra $10,000 this week, or if I’d like to get a $1,500 loan in less than an hour.
My answer is a curt “no” to all. Though dealing with these messages may seem like a small inconvenience, with 94 billion spam messages sent daily, these pitches accumulate. In fact, it turns out they add up to a $20 billion cost to society, according to a new paper called “The Economics of Spam,” by Justin M. Rao and David H. Reiley, researchers at Microsoft and Google respectively.
That eleven-figure number is derived from the cost of developing the software required to filter out spam emails and the few seconds it takes to delete every spam email that isn’t successfully blocked. You’re affected in more subtle ways as well: keep in mind that spam forces the engineers at Google, Yahoo or any other email provider to spend their time fighting spam, rather building new fun features. And because it’s not just a few people footing the bill, but pretty much everyone who’s ever used email, there’s little political incentive for laws that really crack down on spammers.