A recently published Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) patent details a new type of weapon in the never-ending battle against spam email, reports Apple Insider. In a patent titled, “Disposable Email Address Generation and Mapping to a Regular Email Account,” Apple outlined an anti-spam email system that builds on a current spam management method already employed by some email users.
In the patent background, Apple noted that the ubiquitous use of email addresses has led to a corresponding rise in the amount of spam, or junk emails, that consumers receive. Apple cited studies that estimated “that spam email accounts for 90 percent of all email, with trillions of spam emails being sent.”
People have developed various types of spam-filtering technologies in order to battle the growing deluge of junk emails. One method that some consumers employ is the use of so-called “disposable email addresses.” These disposable email addresses are created to shield a user’s true email address from spammers. Emails sent to the disposable email address are forwarded to the user’s non-disposable email address.
If the non-disposable account receives spam emails that have been forwarded from the disposable email address, the disposable email account is simply deleted. As noted by Apple, “This avoids the need to create a new email address for regular use by [the] consumer, as well as the need to inform the consumer’s correspondents of the new address.”
However, this method has several drawbacks. Obviously, users must obtain additional email addresses, usually from sources other than their usual provider. This discourages many email users from employing this method. Additionally, some services that require emails are able to detect disposable email addresses and will refuse to accept them. Finally, replies to emails that are forwarded from a disposable address to a non-disposable address are often sent from the non-disposable address. This defeats the purpose of a non-disposable email address and can expose the email user to spam.
However, Apple has invented a system that improves on the disposable email address concept and closes many of the security loopholes. As noted in the patent abstract, Apple’s system disguises the disposable email address as a standard email address by hiding certain context information that is used to identify disposable email addresses. This prevents services from rejecting a user’s non-disposable email address based on this identifying information.
On the other hand, the email addresses created by Apple’s system would include context information that allows the user to identify what correspondent may have misused their email address. This feature would allow Apple’s users to determine which correspondent exposed their email address to spam services.
Apple’s system also provides safeguards to prevent replies to emails forwarded from a disposable email account from inadvertently coming from a non-disposable account. Per the patent summary, Apple’s system would “rewrite the reply, replacing the non-disposable email address with the disposable email address.” Although it is unknown if Apple has any plans to implement this technology in the upcoming versions of its operating systems, this patented disposable email system could one day provide Apple’s users with an effective tool for keeping their email accounts completely free of annoying spam email.
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