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Macworld Tracks Down iCloud’s Silent Email Filtering

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There’s nothing all that new here — Apple has long deleted some email messages silently, even including TidBITS at various times — but Dan Moren and Lex Friedman show how iCloud can delete messages containing certain phrases with no warning to the user, even if the phrase occurs only in a zipped PDF attachment. So if something you’re expecting doesn’t show up (assuming you notice), consider asking your correspondent to send it to another email address.favicon follow link

 

Comments about Macworld Tracks Down iCloud’s Silent Email Filtering
(Comments are closed.)

Carlos  2013-03-05 04:42
"Just ask them to send to another address?" That's a typical passive approach I get from a lot of Apple fans. In other words, if it don't work, ignore it.

In my opinion, iCloud email (iCloud in general) has many sub-par features. Reliability alone is poor.

* Rules set in Apple Mail aren't synched with the iCloud site,
* rules aren't even available in the iOS mail app.
* Mail is synced fine on the iOS side, while the desktop periodically fails.
* And now, flaws in the junk filtering algorithm?

Just some examples of the utter confusion and disarray found within the Apple software ecosystem.

If I need to have someone send mail to another address, I may as well not use iCloud for mail at all.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2013-03-05 08:24
Since this was merely an ExtraBITS link pointing at the Macworld article, there wasn't room for a more-complete discussion of how to choose an email provider.

But it's worth remembering that iCloud is not an ISP, so every iCloud user has at least one other email address, whether or not they choose to use it. (Hmm, that may not be strictly true for people who use only an iPhone or iPad, perhaps only on public Wi-Fi. But that's still a small group.)

And with plenty of free email providers like Gmail, Yahoo Mail, and Outlook.com, it's easy to add another address at any time.

As to whether one should trust iCloud for primary email, well, personally, I don't. I use it for testing, and as a secondary address, but I don't feel that email is Apple's priority, and there have been too many problems over the years to make it my primary address.
david cuddy  An apple icon for a TidBITS Supporter 2013-04-03 14:14
Turns out that Gmail also implements silent e-mail filtering. On occasion, a friend of mine was not receiving incoming mail to his Gmail account. Investigation revealed that Gmail was rejecting the incoming connection from the sending SMTP server, with the following error:
> 550-5.7.1 Our system has detected that this message is
> 550-5.7.1 likely unsolicited mail. To reduce the amount of spam sent to Gmail,
> 550-5.7.1 this message has been blocked. Please visit
> 550-5.7.1 http://support.google.com/mail/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=188131 for
> 550 5.7.1 more information.

The cited support article indicates that Gmail may reject incoming messages if they contain "spammy text" or if the sender "has a history of sending unsolicited messages".

Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2013-04-03 14:33
That sort of filtering isn't uncommon for any mail server, but my understanding of the iCloud situation is that it was truly silent, that the messages were simply dropped on the floor without even log notification. I would also have expected the sending SMTP server to return the message to the sender as undeliverable after receiving such an error. Additional testing would be necessary to determine whether or not there was any logging; iCloud certainly wasn't informing senders that their messages were being eaten.