Why I’ll never send confidential email to anyone at AOL

AOL has something they call an Email Feedback Report. ISPs can register with AOL so they’ll be notified any time an email message is reported as spam. Unfortunately for the sender, the entire contents of the message are left intact for the ISP to review. The Email Feedback Report protects the identity of the recipient, but not the sender. Therefore, any message reported to AOL as spam (either rightly or wrongly) gets sent to the sender’s ISP.

What does this potentially mean? It means that a sender’s love notes, racist or sexist jokes and personal and business information are revealed to the sender’s ISP if that message is reported as spam.

We try to inform our customers when a message has been returned to us by AOL. In MOST of the cases, the sender reports back that the recipient did NOT (either intentionally or accidentally) mark their message as spam. Therefore, we’re making the assumption that there’s some flaw in AOL’s mail system that tags messages as spam in error.

Because we see several of these a week, my own personal policy is to never send anything I would want to have kept confidential to people with AOL email addresses.

I just wanted to pass this along so people will be aware and take steps to maintain their privacy.