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Bell Labs to help users filter spam

A Bell Labs utility that lets users give each site a personal user alias lets users filter out messages should their email address be sold to spammers.

    Nearly every time you register or volunteer information on a Web site, you're risking that the site will use your email address to send you spam.

    That's the impetus behind a utility introduced today by Lucent Technologies' (LU) Bell Labs.

    Simply put, the utility allows people using Lucent's proxy server, Lucent Personalized Web Assistant, to give each site a personal user alias, password, and email address. This would allow users to filter out a particular email address should it be sold to spammers.

    For instance, if a person registered at a site for a newspaper, she would be assigned a working email address such as "x245@xxxx.com." That would be a unique address. If the newspaper then turned around and sold the address from its registration database, the user would then be able to filter out anything sent to that address.

    The person also would be able to easily find out who is selling email addresses.

    The utility won't actually stop spam, but it will create a way to filter for it. It also does not deal with spam in other venues, such as newsgroups. Some antispam programs pull email off Web pages or from bulletin boards.

    "Spam has become an unwanted intrusion upon today's Internet population," stated Avi Silberschatz, director of the Bell Labs Information Sciences Research Center. "Bell Labs is dedicated to creating innovative forms of communication, and the spam filter lets people to gain control of their communications and eliminate the nuisance of spam."

    Alain Mayer, a research scientist at Bell Labs, said that the lab introduced the Lucent Personalized Web Assistant proxy server in June "with the idea of providing a Web user with privacy and convenience."

    But soon, the company realized that they could use the server also to combat unsolicited messages. "We recognized that what we had in our hands can be used at the same time to filter spam," Mayer added.

    The proxy server is available to those using both Navigator and Internet Explorer browsers.