Tag Archives: Hotmail

How to Set Vacation Email Messages

I’ve written elsewhere of the hazard of setting a blanket auto-respond email message in Microsoft Outlook. Many programs and services have ways for you to tweak these settings so that only your contacts—those people in your address book—receive these messages. (This does not remove the chances of revealing information you don’t want to bad guys, but it does significantly reduce it):

Gmail

In Gmail, got to settings

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and then scroll down to vacation responder.

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Make sure you check the button at the bottom of the window Only send a response to people in my contacts.

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Hotmail

in Hotmail, you’ll find the same option in Options/Vacation reply.

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Microsoft Outlook 2007

Outlook has something similar, so long as your account is on the Microsoft Exchange Server (usually meaning you’re on your office network). There you can also select whether the auto-replies go to people outside or inside your organisation, etc:

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Mozilla Thunderbird

There’s no in-built way to do it. Here’s a workaround, explained in more detail here, but it’s not pretty, and it depends on your computer remaining on and connected.

(My thanks to Brett Roberts of Microsoft New Zealand for suggestions.)

Plaxo Moves Into Macland

Plaxo, the software and service that lets you update your contact details with others — and lets them update theirs with you — automatically, is now available for Mac. A press release issued today (thanks, Joseph) says the move “represents a major step toward the company’s vision to offer the first truly universal personal contact management service, accessible on any platform, email client, browser, or mobile device.”

This is an interesting way of putting it. Plaxo has weathered the criticism about privacy concerns — some of them from this humble blog, despite my support for the service as a whole — to expand beyond Microsoft Outlook to America Online, Mozilla Thunderbird, and Outlook Express. Users can also import contacts from their Netscape, Palm, Yahoo! Mail, and Hotmail accounts.

Like a lot of folk I’m torn over a service like this. On the one hand I can see the obvious benefits: Who better to update the contacts in your address book than the contacts themselves? But on the other hand, how many of the contacts in your address book would be happy that the information is being stored on some company server somewhere, without their knowledge or consent? Then again, that last sentence looks less problematic than it did a year or so back. We’ve heard so many cautionary tales about private data getting lost, stolen or abused maybe we think this kind of thing isn’t important. Now, perhaps, we realise that Plaxo is not really the problem here. The problem lies in those companies deliberating collecting data on individuals, whether they’re ordinary Joes like you and me, or members of the CIA, as the Chicago Tribune recently discovered by searching a commercial online data service.

But I’m not sure that’s the case. The bottom line is complex: We should be as careful with other people’s data as we are with our own. If we don’t want a company to keep details of us we shouldn’t keep details of other people online. Of course, this refers as much to any web-based application or storage tool or networking site.

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Is Gmail Not The First To Scan Emails?

(See this later posting for a response from MSN and Yahoo.)

Here’s possible evidence that Gmail is not alone in scanning your email in order to target ads at you.

MarketingVOX (‘The Voice of Online Marketing’) reports that “the strange mix of privacy advocates, anti-globalists and anti-commercial groups that seem to be swarming on Google in hopes of preventing the company from providing its new Gmail service might be surprised to find out that the other free email providers already do exactly what the groups seem to find offensive.”

It says that Yahoo Mail “allows for searching emails”, while Hotmail “appears to target ads based on message content”. MarketingVOX says its own investigation “revealed that different free email sites include different levels of interaction with message content”, although it did acknowledge that “since the testing was anecdotal, the email engines may be merely coincidentally providing relevant ads.” MarketingVOX was not successful in getting responses from the companies in question, although Yahoo pointed the reporter to the company’s privacy policy.

The colourful language aside, MarketingVOX raises an interesting possibility: That this kind of thing has been going on and we just didn’t know it. But does that make Gmail OK? I’d argue not. Just because it may have been happening doesn’t mean folk would find it acceptable. Indeed, there may be some legal questions lurking out there if it transpires some email providers have been scanning content to deliver ads.

It’s hard to imagine that Yahoo do scan emails because the wording of their privacy policy appears to expressly rule it out: “Yahoo!’s practice is not to use addressing information or the content of messages stored in your Yahoo! Mail account for marketing purposes.” I couldn’t find anything on Hotmail’s privacy policy. I’ll ping Yahoo and Hotmail and see what they say.

News: The Spam Filter That Might Be

 Yet another spam option: Starfield Technologies, Inc., sister company of domain registrar GoDaddy.com, has announced Spam Xploder which uses Bayesian filtering technology to intercept spam at the server level before reaching a user’s mailbox. Spam Xploder works with several e-mail programs, including Microsoft Outlook/Outlook Express. Folk with Hotmail, Yahoo! Mail, or any IMAP- or POP3-based account can retrieve and filter their mail via Starfield’s Web-Based Email or the Spam Xploder Management Client.
 
I for one was not impressed: I couldn’t access their website. Unless it’s a Net quirk, I’d counsel folk that they make sure their website is up and running before they release a product.
 

News: Yes! Another Spam Solution

  I feel this blog is becoming spamblog. Really. I plough through dozens of press releases every day just to find something good for you guys, and it’s all about spam. Here’s another one (and it’s just the headline): MailFrontier Matador(TM) 3.0 Learns and Adapts to Offer Consistent Maximum Spam Protection Over Time Also Protects Mobile Devices from the Increasing Spam Deluge. Excellent. That at least is interesting, although they’ll be really upset when they realise most screens will only read the first half, which will be MailFrontier Matador(TM) 3.0 Learns and Adapts to Offer Consistent Maximum Spam. Anyway, I digress.
 
MailFrontier’s new release is “the world’s smartest desktop anti-spam solution”. It even wheels in a Senator, Arizona’s Scott Bundgaard to confirm it, although he does sound a bit like a guy trying out different brans of mouthwash. “I tried other products on the market, but only with MailFrontier Matador was I able to receive my important email and get rid of spam. Now I can avoid unwanted ads for ink cartridges or home mortgages and can focus on emails that are significant to me,” said Bundgaard.
 
Anyway, on to the product. MailFrontier Matador 3.0, it turns out, “monitors incoming email, analyzing each message to learn more about specific patterns and vocabulary that define good email and bad email for each individual. The software creates an eProfile — a custom rule set — for each individual user, which adapts over time.” Matador also, interestingly, will “filter incoming email before it gets downloaded to a wireless device” which does sound useful.
 
MailFrontier Matador is a desktop application that sells for $29.95. This includes spam signature file updates, product upgrades, and email support for one year at no additional charge. MailFrontier Matador is available for users of Microsoft(R) Outlook(R) (2000 and 2002) and users of Outlook Express(R) (5.0/5.5/6.0), and Hotmail, MSN, and IMAP, when used through Outlook Express. To download a free trial please go to http://www.mailfrontier.com/ .