Yahoo Reinforces Spam Defenses

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Yahoo Inc. rolled out new anti-spam tools that let its fee-paying e-mail customers create disposable e-mail addresses to thwart spammers.


The Sunnyvale, CA, company said yesterday that the new features would enable users of its fee-based Web e-mail service to better control their spam defenses. One option is AddressGuard, which lets users create up to 500 substitute e-mail addresses. The user can dispose of the address if it is sold or harvested by spammers.


Another new customer feature is SpamGuard Plus, a filter that adjusts to user behavior to better identify unwanted e-mail. The filter learns through a customer's use of the "This is spam" and "This is not spam" buttons, making adjustments about which senders to trust and which to distrust.


"Every single user has a slightly different view of what is spam," said Miles Libby, Yahoo's anti-spam product manager.


Both features will be unavailable to the millions of users of Yahoo's free Web e-mail, however. They are reserved for subscribers to its premium e-mail service, called Yahoo Mail Plus, which offers e-mail packages starting at $29.99 yearly. Along with added spam protection, premium e-mail subscribers get extra storage space and virus detection. Yahoo does not disclose the number of subscribers to the service.


The disposable e-mail addresses offered through AddressGuard allow users to create Yahoo e-mail accounts tied to specific online activities, such as bidding at eBay, separate from their main e-mail address. All e-mails tied to the eBay address could be directed to a specific folder. Such disposable addresses resemble advancements made by other e-mail providers. Premium Web mail service Mailblocks, for example, offers what it calls trackers to collate their e-mail.


Yahoo said it made the changes in response to its own market research showing 45 percent of respondents wary about giving out their main e-mail addresses to purchase products. To further customer education, Yahoo announced a new spam information center.


Libby said Yahoo's efforts to fight spam have paid off in fewer customer complaints. When the year began, Yahoo received about 2 million reports via the "This is spam" button each day; now, it receives about 700,000.


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