Firstly…. I’m sure the first question to be answered is “Why ‘Ringo Dingo’?”. Ok so I wanted to approach this with an inclusive attitude, and offered family members and friends the opportunity to get involved or contribute. I haven’t had a lot of take-up of that tbh, but I did ask for code-names for the platform. The vote came in for “Ringo Dingo”. So that’s it’s codename until I come up with a proper platform name.

Maybe Ringo Dingo is the platform name? Time will tell

During the course of 2012 I was getting extremely annoyed with spam. It just seemed to keep arriving no matter how many times I clicked “unsubscribe” – oh how innocent I must have been to trust that… And the journey began. I’d just left my last permanent job, and had embarked on building my own consultancy. This would provide the foundation capability to deliver platforms.

We should not have to waste our time sifting through the crap for actual emails or messages we want to read. This should not be an opt-out system at all. We should own our own inboxes – although nothing can save you from those group emails in the office, with two hundred people in the CC list with action items no-one will accept!

How often do we open our inbox and ask, “How did this spammer get my email address to start with?”, “Where did this road start?” None of the answers were forthcoming and no-one seemed interested in solving the problem. That was when I started digging.

After unearthing various treasure troves of intel on the spammers, I thought the next best step would be to wrap it up and pass it to the regulators – the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) for those sending spam ads which breach a code, and the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) for those items in breach of either the Data Protection Act 1998 [at the time] or the Privacy and Electronic Communication Regulations 2003.

Although the regulators did ‘speak strongly’ to offenders and send some letters out – in a few cases decisions were published highlighting that offenders were acting unlawfully. A handful of spammers stopped what they were doing but the majority just tried to delete the email addresses of mine that they could identify and keep going.

So I began by holding spammers directly to account in the courts on personal claims in the civil courts here in the UK. The success rate did not make up for the fact that the compensation barely covered the costs or time invested in such activity. However I can claim that I provoked a number of data traders to close up shop and leave the industry, whilst severely curtailing the operations of others. Some turned into long-running battles resulting in the operations leaving the EU altogether.

The regulator here, ICO, is barely able to keep up with the pace of complaints and breaches as a result of being drastically under-funded. Essentially without a regulator to enforce the law the spammers were getting away with selling our data on, in an ever increasing spiral of spam.

Over the following few years through to 2017 I looked to diversifying how I interacted with companies and started using a specific email address for each part of an organisation I engaged with. This was the key to unlocking the flow as it highlighted who was getting the data and from whom they were buying (or stealing) it.

So RingoDingo was born as a concept – a platform that would look at spam email the same way I’d analysed it over previous years, and learn how the data traders would switch domains and servers to try and remain hidden. A passive mechanism to defeat spammers and scammers, reducing the time & costs spent dealing with them.

I would design this platform and – in all likelihood – have to build it myself.

Then I would put the majority of the platform on GitLab under an Apache or similar license. I would essentially open-source the main platform but keep the machine learning modules as core product. The base capability and client modules would still do a good job but the machine learning design takes on a whole new way of thinking.