Business

Apple patent could make disposable email addresses easier, help you dodge spam

What if you could avoid spam by more easily using a disposable email address? Apple has filed a patent application to do just that.

The patent application, “Disposable Email Address Generation and Mapping to a Regular Email Account,” was published Thursday by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. It outlines a typical Apple maneuver – take a clumsy existing technology and make it easier and more effective.

The application points out that, according to some reports, as much as 90 percent of all email traffic is now spam. To counter this, the Apple-described system would make it easier to generate, manage and trace disposable email addresses, in part by having the email server handle much of the work.

Currently, there are ways to get and manage disposable, forwarded addresses, but they can become a hassle, involving multiple email providers. Apple’s streamlined solution would allow you to automatically create a temporary email address with the format you want (e.g., lastname@domain.com), link it with embedded data about who you’re giving it to, and forward it to your permanent address.

Getting spammed? Just use a graphical interface to toss that address, produce a new one linked to your permanent address, and get back to your day.

Invisible, contextual information within the address itself could identify which vendor you gave the address to. If they sell or trade it, they’re implicated. If they remove the implicating data, the address is useless. Contextual data could also include an automatic expire-by date for the disposable address.

Another current problem noted in the application is that a reply can sometimes be sent to forwarded emails from the permanent account, since not everyone will look to see the original intended address before replying. This, of course, exposes your real email. Under Apple’s system, the disposable address could automatically be substituted for the real email address in a reply.

As each person’s number of connected devices, appliances, and everyday items grows dramatically, sifting through the incoming deluge of junk mail – not to mention attackers – could easily become more than a full-time job, so placing the emphasis at the provider level, as Apple is doing, would be the obvious solution.

But disposable addresses, even in an easily managed system, don’t fix the entire problem.

Would I give out a temporary address to everyone, even a new business contact – who could turn out to be a spammer or a good friend?

And if that contact gives the address to someone else that I want to have it, am I going to want that address deleted if it causes spamming from someone in its chain of contacts?

Sounds like a different kind of massive email management.

More information:

Apple designs and markets consumer electronics, computer software, and personal computers. The company's best-known hardware products include the Macintosh line of computers, the iPod, the iPhone and the iPad. Apple software includes t... read more »

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