Apple’s Silent Email Filtering Is just Plain Wrong

Yesterday, I was having a conversation with my friend Doug Adams, who runs the Doug’s AppleScripts for iTunes website. We were chatting on Messages, and discussing a possible iTunes AppleScript. He said he would email me later in the day, and, a few hours later, said that he had emailed me a link to the script. I didn’t get his email, and he ran some tests, and found that Apple’s iCloud email service was filtering his mail, apparently blocking “dougscripts,” which is part of his domain name.

Doug wrote about this problem on his blog, pointing out that this is a domain he has owned for many years. His email signature contains a link to his website, and he says:

So links to scripts, tips, and articles on my site can’t be used in iCloud mail messages or they will not be delivered.

This isn’t the first time I’d heard about Apple’s silent email filtering; they block messages with certain texts, but don’t bounce them, so the only way you know something has been blocked is if you check with your recipient and find they haven’t received a message.

While spam filtering is important, making arbitrary filters like this is wrong, and should not happen; I also wonder if it’s in violation of Apple’s terms of service. They said that, regarding email, you will not…

f. post, send, transmit or otherwise make available any unsolicited or unauthorized email messages, advertising, promotional materials, junk mail, spam, or chain letters, including, without limitation, bulk commercial advertising and informational announcements;

Yet they also say:

You acknowledge that Apple is not responsible or liable in any way for any Content provided by others and has no duty to pre-screen such Content.

There’s a serious problem when your emails may not be delivered and you are not notified. Imagine if Doug were applying for a job, sending a link to his website to show people his work. He’d assume the email went through, but would have no way of knowing that it didn’t. He might miss a deadline for paid work that he sent someone attached to an email, or he might simply not be able to tell a friend where they are to meet.

Apple should not be doing this. If they filter emails, they should send non-delivery notifications, with explanations of why the emails were not delivered. I hope Doug can sort this out, and I find it very surprising that something as simple as his domain name is being blocked.

I use a .mac email address occasionally, in part because it has push messaging, and that’s useful on my iOS devices. I may stop using it, however, as the inability to be certain my messages get delivered can be a problem for me as a professional who works almost exclusively via email.