Bluetooth Spam (Oh, Great…)

Like cockroaches and mice, spammers manage to creatively infest virtually every niche in the ecology of electronic communications. BBC News reports today on the latest spam craze: bluejacking.

Bluejacking capitalizes on Bluetooth-enabled cell phones. (Bluetooth is a technology that allows wireless connectivity between a wide ranges of electronic devices, including cell phones, PDAs, laptops, and much more.) Basically, bluejacking is a way to send anonymous text messages to nearby cell phones that have Bluetooth turned on. Currently it’s much more prevalent in Europe than in the US, but just give it time…

Bluetooth technology has a maximum range of only 10 meters, which makes it more up-close-and-personal than most spam. Proximity undoubtedly affects the content of bluejack spam – it’s not like e-mail spam. As one recent participant in a fascinating Slashdot discussion of bluejacking observed, the short distances involved would mean that, “..spamming bluetooth would be less effective than just standing on the street yelling ‘Cheap Viagra for sale! Get it while it’s hot!'”

Range also differentiates bluejacking from SMS spam – which is when people use SMS text messaging services provided by telecom systems to send spam messages to your cell phone from anywhere. (Telecom companies actually profit from this.)

Apparently, anyone who has a Bluetooth-enabled cell phone can perpetrate a bluejacking. BluejackQ tells you how. Lots of people bluejack for fun in crowded places like subway stops or sports arenas.

Of course, bluejacking also can be used for commercial spam. The bluejacking nightmare would be this: You walk into a shopping mall, and your cell phone suddenly starts beeping with 50 bluejacks about specials in all the different stores.

Interestingly, the official Bluetooth site doesn’t even mention bluejacking. In my opinion, it should! Companies whose technologies get misused can create a far more positive and trustworthy appearance by acknowledging the problem and telling customers how to deal with it – rather than pretending the problem doesn’t exist.

Ugh. I’m so glad I don’t even own a cell phone…

2 thoughts on Bluetooth Spam (Oh, Great…)

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  1. VESTED INTEREST ALERT::: I have a vested interest in this. I have a bluetooth ad server that we use occasionally for targetted ads.

    Whilst everything you say is true, there is a big difference between bluejacking and email spam, in that you have a choice with your bluetooth device about whether or not to make it visible to all and sundry. Make it invisible and no bluejacking, no advertising, just quiet.

    This is a fantastic feature. It means that if the ads are badly targetted then people turn off and the ads don’t work. There is a constant pressure on bluetooth advertisers to keep their offers relevant and enticing, or the public turn off.

    Bluetooth adverts have the potential to be very useful. Arrive at a rainy airport/train station and I would /love/ to be bluetoothed the number of a taxi company. Getting off the train at the end of a busy day at work, a number for a takeaway would likely be accepted. Maybe it would be used that day, maybe another.

    I hate spam, but I do see bluetooth ads as different. I’d be interested to see what people think though.