Robert Hampton

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4th March 2013

Over Censor-tive

A while back I took the decision to move my main e-mail off my domain host’s account and onto Apple’s iCloud. My main rationale for this was that I wanted to be able to access my e-mail anywhere, and using the iCloud account, which works with my iPhone out of the box (with push notifications to boot), seemed easier than messing about with my domain host’s IMAP settings. Also, Apple’s shiny, lovely, strokable technology did hypnotise me slightly.

Recently, however, Macworld discovered something about Apple’s e-mail service, which has given me pause for thought:-

Apple’s iCloud email service deletes all emails that contain the phrase “barely legal teen” it was revealed today.

Macworld has tested this by sending two test emails from a personal iCloud account. The message read “My friend’s son is already allowed to drive his high-powered car. It’s ridiculous. He’s a barely legal teenage driver? What on earth is John thinking.”

The second email amended the phrase “a barely legal” to “barely a legal”. This second email was delivered fine, whereas the first is still undelivered.

Ars Technica followed this up and Apple confirmed that it was an over-zealous spam filter. Which is fair enough, but I don’t like the idea that the e-mail is just silently deleted (in the test above, it didn’t even make it into a Junk folder).

Before anyone jumps in: no, I do not routinely send or receive e-mails containing the phrase “barely legal teen”. But I wonder what other phrases are being trapped in this way, and how many e-mails are being lost because of it?

It’s a reminder of the control you lose when you entrust your e-mail or other important data to “The Cloud”. We’re told that this is the future of computing, but to get there we’re having to rely an awful lot on a few large corporations, who may not often have the best interests of users at heart.

In summary, I’m going back to my web host’s e-mail service. Or carrier pigeons. Maybe carrier pigeons.

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