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Thursday, April 8, 2004

Email Privacy

“Microsoft’s Web-based e-mail service, and possibly the entire concept of free Internet mail, suffered a damaging blow to its integrity Monday when a security breach came to light that made it so anyone’s Hotmail messages could be read.”
Status of Hotmail privacy unclear, August 30, 1999

“I have just noticed that Yahoo is spying on my Yahoo Shopping purchases and then using that information to power contextual ads they serve me.

What does appear to be troubling is when I search for the phrase “charger ipaq” within my Yahoo account, there are no results. So how does Yahoo know that I recently purchased an Ipaq car charger? Well, I used Yahoo shopping using the same username I use for my email account. Interesting, huh? Is Yahoo collecting information on my purchases and then using that to further entice me to click on one of their sponsored ads? Or are they simply scanning the content of all my received emails?”
– Andy Beal, Yahoo Mail Invading Your Privacy (, February 19, 2004

“When you send an email message to a friend, you probably assume that random people won’t be reading it. You could be right. But don’t count on it.

Why not? First of all, most email is sent in the form of plain ASCII text, which means humans can read it. Encrypted text, on the other hand, requires a key or a supercomputer to decode into human-readable form.

Second, every email system has administrators who have unlimited access to all mail messages sent from, to, and through that system. It’s possible to design a system that doesn’t have this feature, but there aren’t many. In fact, when you send an email message across the Internet, it often hops from server to server several times before it reaches its destination. As a result, it can be read by system administrators all across the country – possibly the world.”
– Virginia Shea, Email Privacy – a Grand Illusion? (Netiquette)


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