Mail: Strong Objections to MessageTag

By | July 26, 2003

Robyn Winter comments on my recent column about MessageTag:

I noticed, from checking on MSGTAG’s website that you recently did an article on MSGTAG’s email tracking service.

I recently received several email in which the sender utilised MSGTAG’s email tracking service. I was completely unaware that there was even any type of “read receipt” tracking until I had printed out the email and noticed the MSGTAG’s icon. This was because the icon and accompanying message was below the sender’s signature details.

Apart from the fact that our company has a policy NOT to allow read receipts, personally, I strongly object to MSGTAG’S email tracking service, as I have absolute right to control what does or does not leave my mailbox and computer.

The sender has no real right to know when and if I read his email, where will this go next…tracking how often the email is open, tracking to whom I on forward the email…the possibilities are endless and tantamount to spying and invasion of privacy.

MSGTAG also collects the recipients email address, email ID, IP address and email headers without the recipients authorisation or knowledge. This is in direct contravention to the privacy act and the rules governing the collection of personally identifiable information. We also feel that MSGTAG’s email tracking service is not only an invasion of our privacy but is also an infringement of the “Information Access” and “Computer Equipment Access” laws as their service provides “back-flow” traffic, without the recipient’s knowledge or consent, directly from their computer software and hardware.

Because of this activity, which for all intents and purposes (although stated to the contrary on the MSGTAG web site), the email tracking is a form of common spyware and we have therefore banned the use of MSGTAG services through our firewall and proxy services.

We will be taking every opportunity to make users aware of the infringement this product inherently has on privacy. We have contacted MSGTAG regarding their software and have not received any response to date, which to our mind, reflects on their business practices and ethic, as does their product.

Robyn Winter

I’ve passed this email along to MSGTAG for a response. Personally, while I can see some folk might have issues with this kind of tracking, I have been using it myself for some time and have very little negative feedback. Furthermore, after long discussions with them, I am willing to believe that:
– the folks at MSGTAG are not using the information they gather for traditional spyware purposes
– they have put safeguards in place to prevent it being used for spam purposes and
– it amounts to no more than a registered post service facility.

I’m ready to be convinced otherwise. Anyone else have any strong views? Write me.

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