Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Image SPAM from National Archives of Australia?

Recently I received a mail message where the content consisted of an image. This Image SPAM, is used to circumvent spam filters, as there is no text for the filter to check. But as I was about to delete the message I noticed it was from the National Archives of Australia.
Image spam is a kind of E-mail spam where the message text of the spam is presented as a picture in an image file. Since most modern graphical E-mail client software will render the image file by default, presenting the message image directly to the user, it is highly effective at circumventing normal E-mail filtering software.
From: Image spam, Wikipedia, 2007
I contacted the NAA and found that what they had sent was an invitation to an event in the form of an image. When I looked closely at the image I found it did contain the details of an event in October. However, the text was difficult to read. I have suggested that the NAA include the text of such announcements in the body of the message as text, so that they will not be mistaken for a Spammer.

Also this will allow who are blind, or otherwise can't seen the image, to read the message. I pointed out to the NAA that failing to do this may breech the Australia's Disability Discrimination Act, as well as government guidelines. The precedent was established for web pages, but most likely applies to email as well. Filing to include the text could cost the NAA $20,000.


Tom Worthington said...

The NAA responded to my comments by saying they would will increase the size of text used in messages. This completely missed the point, as someone who cannot see the image will not be able to read the text in it, regardless of how large the text is made.

Tom Worthington said...

NAA resent the invitation with readable text, which is an improvement over sending a JPEG image. But they also attached a 373 kbyte PDF version of the same information. The message is just 578 characters of text, with the rest mostly images.

Allowing for formatting and a modest logo, a few thousand bytes would be a reasonable size for such a message. Sending out a mail message 100 times larger than it need be may seem just an annoyance. But consider the effect, if this is a common practice for government: the systems will need to be sized much larger than otherwise required.

As well as increasing the cost of the systems and inconvenience to the public, this could result in greatly increased generation of greenhouse gases from the power needed to run the computers.