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iCloud spam filter to blame for auto-deletion of emails containing pornographic phrase

post #1 of 52
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Apple on Thursday addressed a perceived issue with its iCloud email service, saying that strict spam filters are to blame for the automatic deletion of correspondence containing the phrase "barely legal teen."

Email Spam Filter


Users recently reported the situation to Macworld, noting that instead of relegating the possibly pornographic emails to a spam folder, iCloud is "pre-filtering" or automatically deleting the messages with no notification to sender or recipient.

AppleInsider was able to confirm the activity, which affects emails containing "barely legal teen" in the subject line, body, attached PDF document and attached zipped PDF file. Outgoing messages from iCloud accounts to non-iCloud addresses were allowed to pass, as were replies to emails sent from Apple's service.

Apple responded, saying, "Occasionally, automated spam filters may incorrectly block legitimate email. If the customer feels that a legitimate message is blocked, we encourage customers to report it to AppleCare.?

As part of the iCloud's Terms and Conditions, the company notes that it can pre-screen or otherwise modify content at any time:

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. However, Apple reserves the right at all times to determine whether Content is appropriate and in compliance with this Agreement, and may pre-screen, move, refuse, modify and/or remove Content at any time, without prior notice and in its sole discretion, if such Content is found to be in violation of this Agreement or is otherwise objectionable.




iCloud's so-called "silent email filtering" raises questions as to the reliability of Apple's service as an inadvertent phrase flagged by the spam blocking system could cause a user to never receive a message. The situation is concerning given both iCloud users and senders have no way of knowing an email was not received as the messages are simply deleted.

Other services, like Google's Gmail, Yahoo Mail or Microsoft's Outlook, are not known to have such measures in place and funnel spam into appropriately tagged folders.
post #2 of 52
Barely legal teen


Now let's see if this comment shows up here without filtering.
post #3 of 52
"Other services, like Google's Gmail, Yahoo Mail or Microsoft's Outlook, are not known to have such measures in place.
"

WHAT ?
post #4 of 52

Huh. So Apple scans users email, including "taking a peek" at whatever was written in the body of them.1hmm.gif

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post #5 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gatorguy View Post

Huh. So Apple scans users email, including "taking a peek" at whatever was written in the body of them.1hmm.gif

Sure. But unlike Google, Apple doesn't store it or sell your information to the highest bidder.

Personally, I'd be just as happy if they dropped spam filters - and instituted capital punishment for spammers. /s
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post #6 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by oomu View Post

"Other services, like Google's Gmail, Yahoo Mail or Microsoft's Outlook, are not known to have such measures in place.
"

WHAT ?
That's because Google would have to filter themselves as well. They Couldn't send you any email because they would have to Filter all their ads and spam that they put in for you.
post #7 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by jragosta View Post


Sure. But unlike Google, Apple doesn't store it or sell your information to the highest bidder.

What user data does Apple store? For how long? Email records aren't saved? Where did you read Google stores your email and sells it to the highest bidder? 

 

For a smart guy you sometimes make the silliest claims, already knowing they aren't true when you write them.


Edited by Gatorguy - 2/28/13 at 4:34pm
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post #8 of 52

Apple needs to get on top of this. I definitely need to make sure that I'm receiving all of the "barely legal teen" emails that might be addressed to me.

 

As far as I'm concerned, people who like the "barely legal teen" category should not be subjected to unfair and unlawful discrimination, especially by a company who has recently come out in full support of gay marriage. 

post #9 of 52
I've always thought Apple's spam filter sucks. I constantly get spam that should have been blocked. It used to work quite well, then iCloud came to life and the spam filter when down into the toilet.

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post #10 of 52
Originally Posted by Alexmit View Post
Barely legal teen

Now let's see if this comment shows up here without filtering.

 

Defensio's pretty stupid. It ALWAYS lets through the "FOR SALE $$$$I-phone$$$$" posts while automatically deleting a post with a quote in in if it's made by someone with fewer than 20 posts.

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post #11 of 52
It's about time Apple upped its filtering. I noticed a dramatic decrease in spam on iCloud over the last couple of weeks after the recent massive increase in spam.
post #12 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gatorguy View Post

Huh. So Apple scans users email, including "taking a peek" at whatever was written in the body of them.1hmm.gif

 

It's no different from Gmail's automated systems going through your emails to display targeted ads:

Ads in Gmail

 

Google assures us no human reads the emails but don't forget their humans have access to the servers and the code they run.

 

This is true of iCloud, Hotmail etc but these services are all provided for "free".

 

People who want complete peace of mind that nobody's been meddling or snooping at their emails should rent a mail server from a hosting company or ideally, run a mail server on their own premises.  They may be interested in PGP encryption too.

post #13 of 52
In what universe does the subject line containing "barely legal teen" sent from someone you do not know mean anything other than spam? It's probably a true positive match for spam more often than a false positive.

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post #14 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gatorguy View Post

Huh. So Apple scans users email, including "taking a peek" at whatever was written in the body of them.1hmm.gif

That dog won't hunt.

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post #15 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by Suddenly Newton View Post

In what universe does the subject line containing "barely legal teen" sent from someone you do not know mean anything other than spam? It's probably a true positive match for spam more often than a false positive.

The article wasn't calling attention to "barely legal teen" being identified as spam. You're correct it probably should be properly ID'd as just that no matter who's email service is being used.

 

The issue was the automatic deletion of an email containing the phrase rather than being relegated to a spam folder. It leaves an open question about what other phrases, words or topics also prompt an automatic deletion from Apple, and whether legitimate communications between Apple users have been inadvertantly flagged and disposed of.  It's a very unusual policy, perhaps even unique.


Edited by Gatorguy - 2/28/13 at 5:23pm
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post #16 of 52

I want to party with Mikey Campbell.  1biggrin.gif

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post #17 of 52
Originally Posted by Suddenly Newton View Post
In what universe does the subject line containing "barely legal teen" sent from someone you do not know mean anything other than spam?

 

RSC 8403-613-0-0-8-5, the universe of nothing but 18-year-old girls on their birthday. You're born as an 18-year-old girl, it is always your birthday, and then you die as an 18-year-old girl on your 18th birthday.

 

It's a sick scene, man.

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post #18 of 52
This is a little ridiculous. Apple should not be making the call on what e-mails I receive. Send it to a spam folder and call it a day.
post #19 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by oomu View Post

"Other services, like Google's Gmail, Yahoo Mail or Microsoft's Outlook, are not known to have such measures in place.
"

WHAT ?

 

How would anyone know? I mean how many non porn messages have that phrase in them for someone to be expecting a message to come through

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post #20 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by jragosta View Post


Sure. But unlike Google, Apple doesn't store it or sell your information to the highest bidder.

Personally, I'd be just as happy if they dropped spam filters - and instituted capital punishment for spammers. /s

 

I'll be happy when they finally institute spam filters on mobile mail.  I'm tired of leaving my computer on at home all day just so my phone doesn't get flooded with spam.  

post #21 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by Suddenly Newton View Post

In what universe does the subject line containing "barely legal teen" sent from someone you do not know mean anything other than spam? It's probably a true positive match for spam more often than a false positive.

 

Yeah, but the key is the "more often" part.  

 

It has to be seriously close to 99.9% for them to justify deleting it immediately versus putting it in your spam folder.  I would think in conjunction with the sender being a stranger that this one probably qualifies, but we don't really know.  

 

Edit: I just thought of some obvious situations ...

You're writing a book about pornography.  You're writing a non-pornographic essay or a novel (ironically) called "Barely Legal Teen."  You're writing a treatise on SPAM.  

 

Edit 2: 

You're one of those a-holes that works for a SPAM outfit and your sending your latest copy for the next SPAM to your boss.  It's a single, private, person to person email so to delete it is to abuse the rights of the person sending it. 


Edited by Gazoobee - 2/28/13 at 6:19pm
post #22 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by oomu View Post

"Other services, like Google's Gmail, Yahoo Mail or Microsoft's Outlook, are not known to have such measures in place.
"

WHAT ?

 

It's almost certain that google deletes some spam silently.

 

We ran our own mail server at work for a while and the flood of spam is amazing. We used spamassassin to rate each email and sieve to silently drop the worst, place in-between in a spam folder and put everything else in the inbox.

 

We have since moved to Google Apps (with gmail). Google does a first rate job of putting only spam in the spam folder. I've never had spam in the inbox. I've never had false positives in the spam folder. However, the amount in the spam folder is MUCH less than I would expect knowing what was going to those same email addresses previously. I assume they use the same tiered sorting system, but much more advanced.

 

It looks like Apple screwed up. Like maps, they took on a difficult task and did not get it right the first time. That's not totally unexpected, but it appears to be happening more often. Using customers as beta testers is not a good thing, but it seems to be an industry standard these days, even with Apple.

post #23 of 52
Sounds like they hired some Chinese to do the filtering.
Bad word -> Filter!
Good word -> Pass!
Not sure? -> Filter!
post #24 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by irnchriz View Post

It's about time Apple upped its filtering. I noticed a dramatic decrease in spam on iCloud over the last couple of weeks after the recent massive increase in spam.

 

 

I've gotten tons of spam supposedly from You Tube and Face Book...  a quick look at the sender's address shows a different address each time.

 

Wish Apple could stop those...

 

Your = the possessive of you, as in, "Your name is Tom, right?" or "What is your name?"

 

You're = a contraction of YOU + ARE as in, "You are right" --> "You're right."

 

 

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Your = the possessive of you, as in, "Your name is Tom, right?" or "What is your name?"

 

You're = a contraction of YOU + ARE as in, "You are right" --> "You're right."

 

 

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post #25 of 52

If the customer feels that a legitimate message is blocked, we encourage customers to report it to AppleCare and explain they trying to send an email about a "barely legal teen". 

post #26 of 52
Doesn't "barely legal teen" mean that the teen is "legal?" Then why should it be filtered out? I am so confused.
post #27 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gatorguy View Post

Huh. So Apple scans users email, including "taking a peek" at whatever was written in the body of them.1hmm.gif

In no way is filtering out potential spam with keywords the same as directed ads and content analytics.

Same goes for Google's spam filtering which was still better years ago than Apple's is today, albeit Apple's is considerably better than the MobileMe days and is pretty nearly complete, just not as good as Google's overall.

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post #28 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by Suddenly Newton View Post

In what universe does the subject line containing "barely legal teen" sent from someone you do not know mean anything other than spam? It's probably a true positive match for spam more often than a false positive.

I agree with your point, but it brings up the question of what other phrases Apple is filtering out. It seems like this one was discovered by coincidence - there could be hundreds more that nobody knows about.


Edited by elroth - 2/28/13 at 11:00pm
post #29 of 52
Barely legal teen is pornographic? BS. Suddenly ive lost confidence in icloud mai.
post #30 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

RSC 8403-613-0-0-8-5, the universe of nothing but 18-year-old girls on their birthday. You're born as an 18-year-old girl, it is always your birthday, and then you die as an 18-year-old girl on your 18th birthday.

It's a sick scene, man.

Sounds like a Japanese anime of a Philip K Dick story.

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post #31 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by elroth View Post

I agree with your point, but it brings up the question of what other phrases Apple is filtering out. It seems like this one was discovered by coincidence - there could be hundreds more that nobody knows about.

Think about what you're saying: if any non-spam phrases have been deleted how come nobody has complained before?

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post #32 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by Apple ][ View Post

Apple needs to get on top of this. I definitely need to make sure that I'm receiving all of the "barely legal teen" emails that might be addressed to me.

 

As far as I'm concerned, people who like the "barely legal teen" category should not be subjected to unfair and unlawful discrimination, especially by a company who has recently come out in full support of gay marriage. 

 

This^^^^

 

Besides, what is wrong with "barely legal teen"? Key word is "legal". I'm all for them stopping illegal teen pr0n. 

post #33 of 52

Dear Apple,

 

Thanks for making a moral judgement, on my behalf, without my even knowing about it.

 

Also thanks for deciding for me, which emails I need to see and which I don't, without my even knowing about it.

 

---

 

I wonder how people would feel about the Royal Mail opening all our letters and deciding whether we should see them? Maybe just bin the letters they don't think we should see?

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post #34 of 52

I've never heard of an email service that completely erases received emails and even sent emails based on a word chain. What's worrying is that if this system is in place other sequences of words my trigger the same mechanism. It's probably just a bug.

post #35 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post


In no way is filtering out potential spam with keywords the same as directed ads and content analytics.

BOTH are doing "content analytics" Soli. BOTH are auto-scanning user emails including headers and content, BOTH are searching specific keywords/phrases found in them to prompt an action. While one deletes emails based on content and the other uses content to help companies deliver pertinent ads, both are getting there using the same general methods.  It's not even assured that Apple doesn't log potential ad keywords too is it, or that Google never deletes email?

 

Neither has a person at a desk reading your emails, giggling, and taking notes. 


Edited by Gatorguy - 3/1/13 at 4:57am
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post #36 of 52
Some content, clearly not pornographic by any means is also filtered on iCloud without leaving any trace.
See for example Macintouch on the subject about a mail concerning an exhibition of persian art.
This is unacceptable.
post #37 of 52
Maybe Apple is secretly part of Echelon. .....
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post #38 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by Phone-UI-Guy View Post

This^^^^

Besides, what is wrong with "barely legal teen"? Key word is "legal". I'm all for them stopping illegal teen pr0n. 

I wouldn't be replying to anyone comparing child porn to equal rights for gay and lesbian couples if I were you (referring to he whom you replied to not you 1smile.gif). He is certifiably bigoted and always has been in this forum.
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post #39 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by Suddenly Newton View Post


Think about what you're saying: if any non-spam phrases have been deleted how come nobody has complained before?

http://www.macintouch.com/readerreports/mobileme/topic4953-009.html#d28feb2013

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post #40 of 52
Wow! Apple needs to get out of the business of being a nanny.
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