California Enacts Law Banning Spam

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California will prohibit Internet advertisers from sending unsolicited e-mails under the toughest law of its kind in the nation, providing for fines up to $1 million.

Gov. Gray Davis (search) signed legislation Tuesday that targets not only the firms that package and send spam (search) to consumers, but also the companies whose products and services are being advertised.

The measure covers all unsolicited commercial e-mail sent or received in California and imposes fines of up to $1 million per incident.

"There are no loopholes, no way of getting around it," said the bill's author, state Sen. Kevin Murray, a Democrat.

Washington state passed an anti-spam measure in 1998, but it didn't go as far. The Washington law provides civil penalties of $500 per message for bulk or commercial e-mail with misleading information in the subject line, invalid reply addresses or disguised paths of transmission.

A San Francisco-based marketing firm, Ferris Research, estimated that unwanted e-mails cost U.S. companies nearly $9 billion in 2002 in lost productivity, consumption of communication bandwidth and drain of technical support.

"California is sending a clear message to Internet spammers: we will not allow you to litter the information superhighway with e-mail trash," said Davis in a statement.

This week, California also became the first state to protect the privacy of drivers whose vehicles come with "black boxes (search)," devices that store data on how a car is being driven in the seconds before a collision.

The law, signed by Davis on Monday, stipulates that car owners must be told their cars carry the recorders, and says the information can only be downloaded with consent from the driver, a court order or for medical or safety research.

The devices can record speed, the use of brakes and seatbelts, and the deployment of air bags. Unlike airplane black boxes, the devices don't gather voice recordings.