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Over the past several years, Congress has considered a number of bills designed to combat the growing problem of unsolicited commercial e-mail — commonly referred to as “spam.” Because Congress has yet to enact an overarching law to deal with spam, a number of states have filled the void by enacting their own laws. Now, in a new twist, a recent study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project suggests that spam does not present much of a problem, at least for American adults in the workplace. The results of the study are surprising, as many of us may feel inundated with spam at work, notwithstanding the implementation of filters and other techniques devised to try to root out spam. E-MAIL AT WORK E-mail is becoming an integral part of life for American workers. According to the study, approximately 62 percent of employed Americans have Internet access, and of those people, 98 percent use e-mail on the job. This translates to more than 57 million American adults who use e-mail as part of their jobs. The study reports that “contrary to the perception that wired American workers are buried in email, the large majority of those who use email at work say their experience with email is manageable.” In terms of numbers, the study reports that 60 percent of “work emailers” receive 10 or fewer messages per day, while 23 percent receive more than 20 e-mails, and only 6 percent receive more than 50 e-mails. Furthermore, 73 percent of work e-mailers spend an hour or less per day handling e-mail, with 23 percent spending less that 15 minutes per day dealing with e-mail. In addition, 46 percent of work e-mailers state that the volume they receive at work has stayed the same over the past year, while 48 indicate that their e-mail volume has increased. VALUABLE CONTENT The study also reports that “those who use email at work say their electronic communications contain content that is highly valuable to their work.” Along those lines, 52 percent of work e-mailers state that their e-mail is “essential to their work,” with an additional 34 percent stating that their e-mail is “moderately important.” And while spam is a growing problem for personal e-mail accounts, little spam is reported to be reaching the work e-mail in-boxes for American workers. According to the study, 53 percent of worker e-mailers state that almost all of their incoming e-mail is work-related. Moreover, 71 percent of work e-mailers people state that only a little of the work e-mail they receive is spam, and 58 percent state that almost all of the e-mail they send from work is work-related. Apart from spam, 75 percent of work e-mailers state that only a little of the e-mail they receive or send at work is personal. OTHER FINDINGS Besides the foregoing, work e-mailers state the following: 77 percent find that e-mail keeps them up with events at work; 63 percent find e-mail more effective than the phone or talking in person for arranging appointments; 67 percent find e-mail very effective for reviewing or editing documents; 85 percent prefer conversations over e-mail when dealing with problems and sensitive issues; 88 percent check their e-mail at least once a day; and few check their e-mail when they are away from the office. Furthermore, while 71 percent of work e-mailers consider e-mail a “mixed blessing,” most feel positive about e-mail; 72 percent state that e-mail helps them communicate; 59 percent report that e-mail improves teamwork; 39 percent say that they have sent jokes or chain e-mails; 26 percent have used e-mail to discuss their personal lives; 15 percent have gossiped about work on e-mail; 22 percent say that e-mail has caused misunderstandings; 28 percent find e-mail distracting at times; 23 percent report that e-mail has added a new source of stress in their lives; and 16 percent say that e-mail encourages gossip. SO? E-mail obviously is many things to many people and has become rooted as a communications tool for Americans in the workplace. The results of the Pew study certainly are interesting, but this author — who receives considerable spam at work — wonders about the accuracy of the finding that American workers do not receive much spam. Eric Sinrod is a partner in the San Francisco office of Duane Morris ( www.duanemorris.com), where he focuses on litigation matters of various types, including information technology disputes. Mr. Sinrod’s Web site is www.sinrodlaw.com, and he can be reached at [email protected]. To receive a weekly e-mail link to Mr. Sinrod’s columns, please type Subscribe in the subject line of an e-mail to be sent to [email protected].

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