GSMA, UK operators and ICO tackle spam text messages

UK authorities are teaming with the GSM Association (GSMA) and the country's mobile operators to tackle spam text messages through a real-time reporting service.

GSM Association

GSMA chief executive, John Hoffman

The service, run for the GSMA by messaging security software provider Cloudmark, enables consumers to report nuisance text messages to their operator via a free short code. The information will then be used by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO)--an independent UK authority that protects individuals' data privacy--to track down companies that breach UK privacy protection rules, and issue fines against them.

Steve Eckersley, head of enforcement at the ICO, said information supplied by mobile operators "is helping us to quickly identify breaches in the Privacy of Electronic Communication Regulations (PECR), track down perpetrators and issue monetary penalties against them."

All four UK mobile operators--EE, O2 UK, 3 UK, and Vodafone UK--have joined the programme, which will enable them to share information on nuisance texts in real time, and then block the messages and cut off the senders. The operators are also looking into expanding the scheme to cover nuisance calls.

GSMA chief executive, John Hoffman, said a growing number of consumers "are victims of spam", and that the reporting service "provides operators with a tool to measure the extent of fraud and phishing". He added that the service offers operators "the insight needed to address sophisticated messaging threats that could harm users," and that the collaboration with the ICO will make it "more difficult for spammers and fraudsters to target mobile phone users in this country."

Despite the assertion that nuisance text messages are growing, precise figures are hard to come by.

Hoffman told FierceWireless:Europe the spam reporting service will also help to build a clear picture of the scale of problem.

"The MNOs [mobile network operators] plan to accumulate statistically meaningful data in the coming months as public awareness of the service increases," he said. "The trials of this service indicate that the public complaint data helps operators and authorities in deterring spam and the UK MNOs are addressing something that they know is a concern to their customers."

Hoffman added that raising public awareness of the reporting scheme is the main goal in the near term.

"With a better understanding of nuisance messaging, authorities and MNOs can develop the best counter measures. Ongoing reporting of spam issues by the general public are critical in helping to curb this issue, particularly as spam campaigns evolve over time," he said.

For more:
- see the GSMA announcement

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