Address munging is one of the ways through which people and organizations online can exchange email addresses without their email addresses being picked up by bots. As you know, email addresses all over the net – whether in chat rooms, forums, online forms, etc. – are harvested by special programs in the Internet and sold to bulk emailers.
Address munging is done by making the email address unreadable to such harvester programs but understandable to humans. An example of this is the email address firstname.lastname@example.org that’s posted as anonymous at yahoo dot com over forums and chat rooms. This prevents the email address from being picked up by bots and included in a spamming operation. It also ensures that the correct information is passed to the target audience.
Drawbacks of Email Address Munging
One of the disadvantages of email address munging is the fact that a few people will still misunderstand the munging method that you have used and thus will misunderstand the address you have written. This problem certainly leads to some information and perhaps even opportunities lost.
Of course, there is also that issue that says munging does not take away the root of the problem, that it is just a quick fix. Moreover, some bots have found a way to read munged email addresses.
Another drawback of email munging is the fact that it prevents the free flow of information in the internet. It also goes against some of the recommendations regarding forum and bulletin board formats. Additionally, munging creates confusion in the munger’s mind on the matter of which emails he has or hasn’t munged.
Other options that you have for protecting your email address include posting the email address as a jpeg or gif image, using text logo as the email address format, posting the email address in a jumbled format and using CSS to restore it to the proper sequence, etc. It must be noted, though, that some of these alternatives – say, the jpeg email format – may prevent people with disability from getting the correct info.
Going after the Root
Of course, none of these options are 100% reliable and it is true that these only treat the symptoms of a internet threat rather than cure it. Current email address munging methods may work now but they may soon be deciphered by the increasingly intelligent bots that have the ability to decipher and clean mugged email addresses. For this reason, it may be better to learn the methods of reporting these kinds of activities to the right authorities. Today, there are email providers that have the spam report option built in. There are also Internet abuse authorities such as adcomplain.pl that are effective in tracing bulk emailers and responding to such abuse.
Before reporting these bulk emailers, however, it would be best if you were to compile as much information as possible such as frequency of emails, types of emails, etc. to help the authorities respond as quickly as possible.