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Sophos: American idol mobile spam angers AT&T Customers

January 2009 by Sophos

Sophos is calling on firms to fully consider the consequences before sending unsolicited text messages after American Idol sponsor AT&T sent adverts for the show to a ’significant number’ of its mobile phone customers.

Thousands of angry mobile phone users flooded websites like Twitter with angry complaints after receiving the American Idol spam.

Sophos experts note that spam on mobile phones is nothing like as common as email spam, but while AT&T may argue that it worked inside the law, text messages of this nature can be a real nuisance to subscribers. Sophos warns that sending unsolicited bulk messages in this way could lead to an increase in mobile spam around the world, as other companies follow suit. Last year, in China alone, 353 billion mobile spam messages were sent.

Mark Siegel, a spokesman for AT&T Wireless, explained that his company wanted "people to watch the show and participate. It makes perfect sense to use texting to tell people about a show built on texting."

"What AT&T has neglected to say is that only its customers are allowed to vote by text message in American Idol - so, the mobile phone network provider actually has a vested financial interest in boosting viewers’ participation in the show," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos. "In this instance, mobile phone users were clearly infuriated by what they saw as spam - AT&T has obviously angered a lot of its subscribers, and it’s not done the television programme any good either. Just because it’s legal doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best thing to do."

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