Amir Gans, the man Microsoft Israel once alleged was responsible for half of Israel's junk e-mail, had no problem with talking with The Jerusalem Post about his past as a spam expert.
It is a mistake, he said, to automatically assume that spammers are necessarily hi-tech criminals - although he could not recall if he was as adept at the practice as Microsoft claimed.
In 2005, Microsoft Israel and MSN opened a NIS 2.5 million lawsuit against Gans in hopes of convincing other spammers to stop cluttering people's e-mail boxes. They alleged that Gans sent more than a million e-mails a day to Hotmail subscribers that year and that as a result had cost them $50m.
The plaintiffs dropped the suit when Gans counter sued. Gans said he never used junk mail to create "bot networks" that infect people's computers in a way that sought information from the machines.
"But these days, in order to get spam into inboxes, you pretty much have to," he said.
At one time, he said, spam was good. "But the way it's used today, it's unsupervised. You get hundreds every day, so our inboxes suffer from it. If you got five or six a day, it would be different. It's also less effective this way."
Drawing an analogy with the prohibition of alcohol in the United States during the 1920s. "As long as you fight it, it'll be mafia," he said. To put it another way, he said, it should be regulated but not outlawed.
Gans, who currently heads New Approach Marketing, is working on a new form of Internet advertising called "pay-per-chat."
Under this model, Web sites receive money from advertisers every time a user clicks on a link that takes him to a site where he can chat with a sales representative for a product. Gans expects "it will be big" after it rolls out within the next month.
Asked if he had any regrets about his spamming past, Gans said, "I can give you my bank details and then you can tell me if you'd have any regrets."
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