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Filtering Spam: New Perspectives on the False-Positive/False-Negative Trade-off

Date & Time:
12:00:00 - 13:30:00,
Wednesday 18 June, 2003


Attempts to filter unsolicited bulk email (‘spam’) tend to present two kinds of errors. Some unobjectionable messages are mistakenly flagged as spam (false positives), while some spam is not flagged (false negatives).

This seminar will start with discussion of the reasons why this problem is fundamental and why it has proven difficult to solve. It will also cover research methods aimed at quantifying the scope of the errors and at comparing their prevalence in competing email filtering systems.

The seminar will conclude by comparing email filtering errors with the mistakes made by web filtering systems, with a view towards identifying and adopting best practices in web filtering to make email filtering more accurate.

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  • Name: Dr Ben Edelman
  • Affiliation: Berkman Center for Internet and Society, Harvard Law School
  • Role:
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  • Bio: Ben is an assistant professor at the Harvard Business School in the Negotiation, Organizations & Markets unit. Ben’s current research includes analyzing methods and effects of spyware, with a focus on installation methods and revenue sources. Ben has documented advertisers supporting spyware, advertising intermediaries funding spyware, affiliate commission fraud, and click fraud.