Sender at Risk mechanisms (also called Attention Bonds, Warranties,
Guaranteed delivery, Assured Messaging) are mentioned most often in
the context of blocking spam. But in fact, they address the
problem: They can assure that messages get delivered - or that contact
is successful - even in the presence of aggressive antispam mechanisms
such as filters and black lists. Together with effective antispam
tools at the recipient or service provider, they result in a clean
communication channel that delivers only relevant and desirable
"Sender at Risk" messaging?
is a lot of confusion concerning "sender at risk" introductions - or
more accurately "interruptions". In practice, the technique works
brilliantly - but the organizations creating and deploying these
mechanism need to better explain why its use is trivial and
How can you force a spammer to put up money?
Often, they don't provide a truthful From address
- No one is forced to put up
money. The process is sender driven
- The presence of a truthful
FROM address is irrelevant. The sender's cash is authenticated,
not an address or identity
- The act of a sender going "at risk" does not
stop spam. That's accomplished by traditional filters. Instead,
the mechanism guarantees the relevance of
individual messages so that filters and black lists can
avoid improperly intercepting them.
Sender ID or Domain Keys? Don't
they verify the IP address, or the route?
existing contacts, an authenticated sender is a valuable piece of
information. It is evidence of desirable content, because the
interruption is based on a prior relationship. But the
identity of a stranger says nothing about the importance of their
mission as it relates to your interests. It is less meaningful than a clear, bankable
demonstration that the sender knows enough about you to risk
his pocketbook. Sender risk is evidence of a stranger's confidence
in the careful targeting of their message. Sufficient risk is a
better clue to relevant contact and the motives of senders then
"content clues", such as the words "Viagra" or "mortgage", the
similarity messages sent to other recipients, or the past behavior
of an mail provider.
Analogy: Suppose that you are working frantically toward a deadline. On
the phone and at the door, there are a great number of
interruptions. Time is precious. You wish to be insulated
from anything that is not immediately relevant.
Your secretary is a computer program. In his capacity as a
filter, he often turns away important visitors that you
would have preferred to receive. But suppose he could
override his programming when in the presence of sender
risk. At the door, he hears "Knock, Knock". Of course he
could ask "Who's there?" (the function of a white list
or Sender ID). But
the name of stranger - even when verified - doesn't convey the importance of a
message or its immediate relevance. On the other hand, if
the stranger slips $200 under the door for the privilege of
announcing information, it may be worthwhile to listen. In
practice, people offered cash guarantees rarely cash the
deposit, because the information is personally desirable.
Taking the money would discourage other strangers from
offering personally desirable information - even if they have reliable information
about the recipients preferences and needs.
What is the purpose of the Accountability Initiative
The Accountability Initiative has 3 goals:
IP represented by the working group is not restricted to
implementations that comply with suggested specifications,
reference designs, or interoperability testing. The methods
and technology of the member inventors may be used to deploy
proprietary products or products that do not relate to
- Create a single-licensing entity for anyone wishing to
embody SR mechanisms within commercial products or services.
Licensees benefit from reduced cost, a simple and easy to
compute expense, and access to the IP of all inventors in the
- Promote a common reference specification for the assured
delivery of electronic messages (e.g. email)
- Develop test tools and a program to certify interoperability
Does the initiative represent only inventors?
Initially the initiative is composed of inventors or the companies
to which they
have assigned patent rights. Academic experts are also
involved to validate methods and arbitrate the relative value of IP.
After the first few meetings which focus on the pooling of member
resources related to patents and trade secrets, the group will
welcome applications by prospective licensees, anti-spam providers,
marketing communications organizations, and observers such as
journalists. Anyone interested in joining now or later should register
so that they can receive mailings.
Who is the audience for these inventions?
Software and service companies that create, route, or deliver
potentially unsolicited content to subscribers. These include ISPs
(or mail providers), phone companies, software companies, and
network infrastructure companies.
Must ISPs pay to test for risk?
On the contrary, some marketers have expressed a desire to
pay ISPs just to ensure that thee risk within messages to
strangers is tested! That's
because they believe that ISPs will agree to waive messages
past their traditional filters if an unrecognized sender has
placed himself at risk of a substantial penalty.
The business model currently being considered would not charge
recipients or their providers (such as ISPs and phone companies) to
test for sender risk, just as Adobe does not charge users of Acrobat
reader to view and print PDF files.
Who controls the Accountability Initiative?
Accountability Initiative is the "Sender At Risk Working Group"
of the MIT Spam Forum. It was started in June 2005 by
, an economist affiliated with MIT and BU, and
staff members of
, a New England software developer with
and commercial activities. The working group is a level playing field, including rotating chairperson, distributed administration and member