Thursday, February 28, 2013

Silent Email Filtering Makes iCloud an Unreliable Option

Dan Moren and Lex Friedman:

To be clear, the problem is not that Apple is flagging terms that are most often used in unwanted, spam messages—it’s the lack of transparency about this filtering. Apple is flagging messages that it seems very sure are spam, but it has no real system in place for dealing with false positives—messages that are filtered, but aren’t actually spam.

Apple deletes some of the false positives outright. They never even appear in the Junk mailbox. This has been going on for many years. It’s also no longer possible to turn off Apple’s server-side filtering, e.g. if you prefer to use another filter such as SpamSieve. These days it’s easy and inexpensive to host e-mail on your own domain, and there are free e-mail services that are better than Apple’s, so I see little reason to use iCloud for e-mail.

Update (2013-03-01): Matt Henderson:

I’ve been telling friends and family for years to think twice before using a Gmail or iCloud email address — or even worse, the email address provided by one’s ISP. The problem is lock-in — once the world knows you or, it’s not easy to change when you become concerned about Gmail account hacking, or when your ISP goes belly up.

3 Comments RSS · Twitter

[...] Link. Just another symptom of the disease. I use iCloud for Contacts only and I hope to end this soon. This problem predates Cook. This entry was posted in share and tagged pinboard by jgordon. Bookmark the permalink. Proudly powered by WordPress [...]

Jonathan Sapan

The problem is far more pervasive than filtering possibly naughty phrases. I forward e-mail from my other accounts to iCloud. I also use to generate disposable addresses for use on eCommerce and other sites.

In 2012, iCloud starting silently blocking e-mails from received through sneakemail. Only discovered this when I logged in to Amazon to see I'd missed seller notifications and was late shipping on several items. I spoke to Apple support several times to no avail. Then I reached out to Apple Customer Relations and the representative was able to talk to the iCloud people and they offered to disable some of the incoming filters for my account only.

Earlier this year, I started having problems again. I signed up for Office365 and Microsoft's e-mails were (and still are) being blocked. I contacted the same customer relations agent as last year. This time she told me the technical side refused to do anything for me. I wrote a letter to Tim Cook and promptly received a phone call from someone in Apple Executive Relations. After much back and forth, Apple acknowledged that legitimate messages were being silently blocked. All I was told was that something about the messages "looked like spam." Whenever I asked for more information that might help me work with my forwarding provider, I was told that was Apple proprietary information and offered no further assistance.

I'm hoping that you might be able to get this out in the open. Perhaps Apple will finality be shamed into fixing this. I don't care if messages erroneously wind up in my Junk folder, but silently deleting incoming mail is unacceptable.

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