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Apple Files Email Patent to Fight ... Nothing


By Ken Magill

Apple last week filed a patent application for a system that automatically generates disposable email addresses ostensibly to help email users head off spam and track it at its source.

Put another way, Apple has just filed for a patent about nothing.

The system apparently automates a technique some persnickety email users have been employing for years—creating unique, disposable addresses that can be discarded and tracked to the source if an email signup results in spam.

“With the increased usage and importance of email also came, unfortunately, misuse of email addresses to send undesirable commercial email in bulk, the ‘junk mail’ of the electronic world, often referred to as ‘spam,’” Apple’s filing said. “Some reports have claimed that spam email accounts for 90% of all email, with trillions of spam emails being sent. Numerous approaches to stopping spam email from reaching the inbox of consumers have been tried, with varying degrees of success. But spam continues to be a problem for many people.”

Besides email system administrators and ISP abuse desk employees—who do an astounding job of keeping our inboxes clean—just who are these people for whom spam is a problem? Do they have Nerf baseball bats for arms?

I have six email addresses that I have managed with varying degrees of care. Spam is a problem at none of them.

As some readers may remember, in March of 2012 I set up three dummy accounts, one at Hotmail, one at Gmail and one at Yahoo, and signed them up for 30, 20 and 20 email lists, respectively.

The brands were a random mix of top retailers, non-top retailers, media, and liberal and conservative political lists.

With the exception of four brands that sent confirmation massages that required a response and one errant click in an attempt to scroll, I have not clicked on any of the messages received since I set up the accounts.

As of yesterday, just three brands were being delivered to the accounts’ spam folders: two at Yahoo! and one a Hotmail, now Outlook. The Gmail account doesn’t even have a spam folder yet.

With the exception of one of the addresses getting email from a cigar merchant apparently as the result of my cigar primary merchant sharing it, none of the addresses are receiving any real spam.

If email-address sharing was the problem that Apple’s patent seems to attempt to address, wouldn’t far more than one of the 70 list owners to which my dummy addresses were subscribed have shared them with other merchants?

Then there’s Long-time readers know I have used this address to communicate with all kinds of shady characters. Yes, it gets a lot of spam. But the spam gets delivered into its spam folder.

I also have [MySon’sName] I used to sign up for every political list I could find. It gets a ton of political and non-political spam. The commercial stuff is going into its spam folder. The political messages are going into its inbox.

As for my main, personal Gmail account, spam isn’t remotely an issue there, either.

During a panel discussion at the Direct Marketing Association’s Email Experience Council’s conference in Florida last month, I asked the room full of people to raise their hands if spam was a problem in their inboxes. One hand went up.

Next up: Apple files for a patent on a system that enables people to find pornography on the Internet.


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