(Responses from Editor-at-large Daniel Scuka in italics.)
Increasingly, I have been subjected to an incredible amount of spam on my i-mode phone -- two to four messages a day. I have since spoken to many other friends [in Japan] and I am hearing different stories. Here are some of the things that I have heard (I can not confirm any of these though):
>> Spam is a big issue, and DoCoMo is under a lot of pressure to fix it.
** You are charged for traffic both to and from your phone, so you end up paying to receive spam.
>> True story. DoCoMo has announced it will cut the packet fees for receiving mail.
** If you follow any of the links on the spam, excessive charges are billed to your phone.
>> True story, although the charges aren't "excessive." You are merely billed the usual JPY0.3 per 128 bytes packet fees. It's a matter of not clicking on the links -- which is a personal choice.
** NTT must be selling their customer database to these spam companies as most people I know have not opted in for spam.
>> I don't think so. The carrier is hyper-sensitive about any sort of negative publicity that such a move might cause. Besides -- they're making bags of cash as is; no need to get down and dirty by flogging the subscriber list. Since the vast majority of customers leave the default address for the phone in place (090XXXXXXXX@docomo.ne.jp), it's a cinch for any spammer to generate a mailing list based on sequential numbers. I changed mine back in February, and have only received one spam since. My wife was getting five a day up until two weeks ago, and then we switched hers. Since then, nothing.
** [I hear] there is a way that you can contact NTT to have spam removed (I am not sure how they would do this unless NTT themselves were sending/sanctioning the messages).
>> Not that I'm aware of. Spam is spam, and DoCoMo doesn't yet have the filters in place that many ISPs do. Give them some time -- they will.
** This is carpet-bombing spam rather than targeted or selective spam -- a practice which has proven overseas to alienate potential customers.
>> I agree -- it is carpet bombing, and since when has anyone in Japan done anything like it's done elsewhere? There's a huge pool of dateless men out there who'd love to meet a girlfriend and are willing to pay for it. In the meantime, the spammers will keep at it. Death. Taxes. Spam.
While from a business point of view I applaud NTT for cracking the age-old micropayment problem on the Internet, if these allegations are true, [there] could [be a] backlash against them. Furthermore, as one who struggles on a daily basis to deal with Japan's strange privacy laws, how is it possible that this company can seemingly endorse such a blatant infraction of privacy?
>> They don't. There has been plenty of comment in the open press (in both Japanese and English) about how the company is trying to fix the problem. The company will insist that new subscribers choose their own personal (non-numeric) address, among other measures.
AXA Online Japan
>> Give them some time. I don't want to sound like their chief apologist, but the system is huge, unwieldy, and installing filtering software is non-trivial. If they haven't fixed it in a few months, J@pan Inc editors will be among the first to slam Big D. Cheers. --DGS