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For over a year, I've had my e-mail address displayed in the README.md on one of my github repos. When accessing it from a browser, it shows up both in the text and as a mailto: link. It doesn't seem like the e-mail address is rendered in Javascript or anything of that nature.

My understanding from 10+ years ago was that if you left an un-obscured e-mail address just sitting around on a crawl-able page, spammers would find it and put you on all kinds of lists pretty quickly, but I don't seem to be getting an inordinate amount of spam from this.

I'm wondering - has the e-mail-harvesting landscape changed in some way, or is there something that github might be doing that prevents it from being used to harvest e-mails? I ask because I'm planning on setting up a basic personal website, and I'm wondering if I can just display my e-mail address on the page without worrying too much about spam.

  • Maybe you're just careful enough - always think twice before giving a email address to somebody, and you get so little unwanted emails that you can't even remember when the last one arrived. At least, that's the case for eg. me. On the other hand, a acquantance, with his email address as plain text on his website (not a company site or anything), gets up to one mail per second (before filtering) – deviantfan Jul 24 '17 at 18:27
  • @deviantfan Yeah, but I'm saying that the volume doesn't seem to have increased since I put my plaintext e-mail on github, even before filtering, so I'm not really being that careful - maybe github is, somehow. – Paul Jul 24 '17 at 19:16
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I think the answer is that spam filters have got better, and spam so wide-spread it's probably that you are getting the spam but it isn't being delivered to your inbox.

  • I unfortunately cleared my spam box not long before asking this question, but I don't think I'm getting much if any spam to the e-mail listed on github. It's possible that spam fighting is getting effective enough that just spamming any valid e-mail found on the internet is no longer a good strategy for spammers, but I don't think it's that the spam is just getting caught. – Paul Jul 24 '17 at 17:29
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The incentive is not high enough to scrape addresses from websites (or, for that matter, PGP-keyservers).

Public awareness as well as spam filters have increased in identifying spam and filtering it away. Most of the spam you don't even see in your spam folder.

Thus, using leaked personal data that includes more than just an email address to craft more convincing spam mails is just more efficient for spammers.

Additionally, scraping the web for valid addresses had its roots at least partially in the payment model for internet access and access speeds as well as a more diverse email provider landscape.

You may just guess names and addresses on those few free email providers and don't care about the bounces - it's basically no difference in cost of you sending 10k or 100k messages and whether 10 or 5k bounce.

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