Mail: MSGTAG “a misuse of email”

 For those of you following the discussion about MSGTAG, the service that alerts you to when emails you send are opened by their recipients, Russ Winter responds to MSGTAG’s defence of its product. Russ raises some good points.
 
Personally and professionally, I must admit to fundamentally disagreeing with any business or product approach that removes choice and attempts to control my personal activities or business processes. In my opinion, this is successfully achieved by MSGTAG. Users outside of my employ or business do not have a right to any insight in to my business practices therefore, read receipts, with no option to deny a
reply infringe on my personal and professional rights. I also note that one of your “pay” product provides a stealth option, where the recipient has no idea that the email has been tagged by your service, this again, in my view, is beyond reproach, unethical and a deceptive practice for any business.
 
I also note with your own MSGTAG product and service, differing levels of service are catered for by providing differing features. We too have a system of Service Level for many of our clients and services, several of these are offered through email and utilise a public or common email group, as such it is our policy not to issue read receipts. This policy protects our employee’s from unwanted, direct contact from general enquiries and in some cases contracted clients. Anonymity to 3rd parties is covered under the Australian and many International Privacy Acts, the fact that we are now not anonymous to the 3rd party (MSGTAG) and we did not provide the email address
to MSGTAG I feel is in breach of this concept. However, we forego this right to the original email sender, as we provided him with the email address, but the fact that we provided him with an email address does not inherently afford him the right to provide such information to any third party without our permission.
 
If, as you say, it is not your policy to block or restrict domain access to your servers, I will be forced to implement other means of blocking your services from being requested from, or accessing our internal networks. Where possible we will also be implementing protection to restrict any activities from your servers accessing our “private” email network. As you have also stated, the fact that we have a domain available on the Internet does mean that it is in the public access domain and as such, those details will be stored within DNS, proxy servers and log-files of varying types. I fail to see how this relates to a “personal” email address, of which is not in the public access domain and does make an individual, personally identifiable. In this case, the fact of registering a domain does inherently mean that this information will be stored and used elsewhere, this also implies, by default, permission to use the domain name in specific methods without any communication with the domain owner, otherwise the domain would not function as intended or wished by the domain owner.
 
In regards to your statement asking that your service be judged on what you are doing, not by what it could do. I personally feel that we have very fairly assessed your service by this criteria, I have not once mentioned the malicious capabilities that both you and I are very well aware of and that must also be of concern to any responsible IT and internet user.
 
In essence, I am sorry to report, I have not been swayed by our communication in any way and still consider your product to be a misuse of email and the facilities afforded by email clients. We shall be treating the MSGTAG services as a common virus or spy-ware application in the future. I might add, that I noticed that your company and application, are apparently associated with several other products and businesses that produce applications to circumvent activities similar to MSGTAG services. I must commend you on such a impressive business development strategy though, not only do you develop and generate the problem for free, but also supply the cure in the way of MailWasher Pro and Benign that is available for download at such a reasonable price.
 
At the end of the day, I am very aware that with profits at risk, and the press coverage being good, that these individual concerns will not be actioned or taken particularly seriously, especially as resolution of these issues would most likely result in reduced profits for Fisher Young and its associated businesses.
 
Again, I thank you for taking the time to consider and reply to our email.
 
Watch this space for more from MSGTAG. Perhaps MSGTAG should consider more of an opt-in approach to its service, whereby a recipient is alerted to the tag, and given the option of blocking it if needs be?

30. July 2003 by jeremy
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