The Plague Of False Positives
from the revolting-against-spam-filters dept
This has been discussed before, but the “quick hook” of many spam filters is causing many legitimate emails to get lost. The article includes the story of someone who had a senior exec at a potential customer email him for some information about his products. The guy tried to write back, but every time, his emails were blocked as spam. Luckily, in this case, he was alerted. Plenty of times, those email disappear into a blackhole. Just recently, I experience something similar. Responding to a specific company request, I was told that my email address had been specifically “blacklisted”. I had to email the person from an outside email address just to get around it. The article claims that some ISPs are giving up on filtering spam themselves – saying that they get such angry calls over “false positives”. While I can understand why a number of legitimate opt-in bulk email gets caught in spam filters, individualized emails shouldn’t be. However, the article says up to 15% of “routine email” messages never get delivered after being flagged as spam. The main problem is that spam is really in the eye of the beholder, not the eye of the ISP or network administrator. While the article suggests the answer is more desktop spam filters, I disagree. A desktop spam filter makes less and less sense in a mobile world where you want to access your email on many different devices. What we need are spam filters on the server side (don’t even want to bother downloading spam), which gives the end-user control over the defining process (and the ability to review flagged emails). While there are tools like SpamAssassin for this purpose, most aren’t very easy for an everyday user to set up and manage themselves. At the same time, I think that challenge-response systems actually make this problem worse by basically defining all emails as spam. That is it has an almost 100% false positive rate at startup. Anyone who decides not to jump through your hoops never gets their email to you, and thus is classified as a false positive.