oobayly writes "Like most people I receive a fair amount of chain emails, some humourous, most downright idiotic. No matter how I try educating colleagues, family & friends, I still receive them and am now resigned to the fact that you just can't help some people.
One of my explanations of why forwarding these emails is a bad idea was that they are a perfect harvesting ground for spammers: a very high percentage of the addresses will be live. This, it turned out fell upon deaf ears. If you're stupid enough to believe that Dell will give you a free laptop then you're probably the type of person that believes that a Nigerian general wants to give you $150,000,000 (ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY MILLION DOLLARS!!!!).
As a bit of an experiment, I used a few tools (grep, awk, etc) to parse my Maildir for any emails that appeared to have been forwarded and extracted anything that looked like an email address. As one would imagine there were a good few (thousand) email addresses. Most of these email addresses belong to innocent by-standers. The real culprits are the people who forward them, and it takes only a little more effort to extract only those.
Part of me has decided these people who waste bandwidth, time and have caused me to lose my hair deserve to pay. What better way to do it than to publish their email addresses for spammers to harvest?
Of course, this is unethical, but is it actually illegal? By sending an email urging others to forward the content, are they not actively pushing their details into the public domain?
Answers on postcards please."