Apple Describes Disposable Email Solution to Combat Spam in New Patent Application

Discussion in ' News Discussion' started by MacRumors, Feb 13, 2014.

  1. MacRumors macrumors bot


    Apr 12, 2001

    Apple has developed a system for both avoiding spam and locating its source, according to a patent application published by the United States Patent and Trademark Office on Thursday (via AppleInsider).

    The patent, originally filed for in 2012, describes an email system that would allow users to create temporary, disposable email addresses linked to a permanent email account. These temporary addresses could be used to join websites or make purchases, with incoming emails to these addresses forwarded to the permanent email address.

    If the temporary email address is sold by a site or otherwise compromised and begins to receive spam emails, it can simply be disabled and unlinked from the permanent account, effectively ending the spam emails.

    As a bonus, assigning temporary email addresses when signing up for various accounts around the web also allows for specific identification of sites or parties that have misused email addresses. Apple specifies that contextual information can be included in the temporary addresses for easy identification.
    Apple's system would also carefully manage incoming emails, assigning the proper address for replies so that a user's permanent account is never revealed, and the temporary emails, unlike existing disposable email solutions, would be indistinguishable from standard email addresses.

    While there are a variety of sites that provide access to temporary emails such as Mailinator and Guerrilla Mail, few of these services are able to be linked to a permanent account for ongoing usage until spam occurs and must be checked individually. Apple notes that current disposable email systems are difficult to use.

    Gmail has its own solution in the form of email aliases, allowing customers to receive messages to, which is treated as the standard email address. Aliases in Gmail can be filtered to specific locations like the trash when subjected to spam, but they cannot be deleted entirely as Apple proposes.

    Apple's solution combines a standard mail service with a temporary service like Mailinator, making it simple to create, manage, and delete disposable email addresses. The described system has the potential to allow users to greatly cut down on the amount of spam emails received if it is implemented, but as with many patents, it is unclear if Apple has plans to move forward with such a system.

    Article Link: Apple Describes Disposable Email Solution to Combat Spam in New Patent Application
  2. JonneyGee macrumors 6502


    Jun 8, 2011
    Nashville, TN
    Now if they can just fix the Mail app in Mavericks, we'll be in good shape!
  3. newagemac macrumors 68020

    Mar 31, 2010
    The Mail app in Mavericks works great. My guess is you are using that non standard terribly implemented IMAP email service known as Gmail.

    In any case, I already have the perfect spam solution similar to what Apple is doing here. All it takes is to purchase your own domain name and use the catchall email feature with forwarding to your real email address. Then when you sign up somewhere like for instance Walmart's site you just use and that way you never give out your email address and instantly know when someone is spamming you and can turn it off whenever.

    Been doing this for years.
  4. teknikal90 macrumors 68030


    Jan 28, 2008
    Vancouver, BC
    Gmail and iCloud works great on my mail on Mavericks..
  5. Jeremy1026 macrumors 68020


    Nov 3, 2007
    Gmail has this functionality built in kind of with custom filters. You can add "+<text>" to your email address and create a filter to work with the <text> portion. Ex. -> Then create a filter to send all mail sent to to your MacRumors folder, or spam folder, or trash, the possibilities are endless.
  6. edk99 macrumors 6502a

    May 27, 2009
  7. randian macrumors 6502a

    Jan 15, 2014
    What's novel or patentable here? Disposable email addresses have been provided by numerous email providers for years
  8. tdiaz macrumors 6502

    Feb 7, 2006
    This is just pointless. The effort spent in making up email addresses and then remembering which one for what use, and how many other places you used it, vs. being able to dump it..

    First, this is nothing new. If you control your own domain, you can do that already. The last thing we need is someone to patent that and then screw everyone for making aliases.

    Spam is out of control. Period. The consequences need to be raised. Start going after the sites that sell, where the links go. Screw the senders. Make it hurt to even be involved in it. Then it will stop.
  9. ardchoille50 macrumors 68020

    Feb 6, 2014
    I like that idea and feel this would be a huge help when an email address is required for online services.
  10. taptic macrumors 65816


    Dec 5, 2012
  11. FrozenDarkness macrumors 65816

    Mar 21, 2009
    what's patentable is that apple made it.

    but seriously, you guys should read the article, the main point here is that apple is applying its learnings to identify websites that sell your e-mail address and bolster their "spam" knowledge. so you don't have to do it yourself in gmail like a user stated above.
  12. Nevaborn macrumors 65816


    Aug 30, 2013
    If Apple does this it will be a great security feature. Add this to thwir passbook and physical security measures and Apple are really starting to lock down on security.
  13. unplugme71 macrumors 68030

    May 20, 2011
    I personally like the idea of using your own domain name for email or maybe someone should open up a service similar to it.

    So you put the website name you are signing up to before the @ symbol. (ie Now if you start getting spam other than or or etc into your email, you simply assign it to your trash folder. Or filter to allow only to go in your inbox.

    The other option is for a company to use the same method, except instead of using your own domain, you have a username - be it or

    Last option is to use something like craigslist where everything goes into your inbox, but you can delete the alias and when you reply, it uses the alias instead of your real email as well.
  14. yonis macrumors member

    Jun 30, 2009
    Spamgourmet does word-for-word what this patent describes, and I've been using it since 2007. The patent should be invalidated.
  15. newagemac macrumors 68020

    Mar 31, 2010
    The way Gmail offers this has several issues that Apple is solving here. First of all, everyone knows that gmail offers the "+" feature so even the most unsophisticated spammers can easily just program their software to strip that part and get your real email address when its a gmail address. The other big issue is that many web forms and software systems don't accept the + character.

    But this patent also seems to make the whole thing about assigning alias addresses and managing them more built in and automated. If Apple can make that type of system easier to use for the general public it would go a long way towards cutting down on spam in general. The best case scenario would be something like how they popularized smartphones and made it mainstream.
  16. FrozenDarkness macrumors 65816

    Mar 21, 2009
    if you think it does word-for-word, than you are sorely mistaken and should reread this article word-for-word
  17. Tiger8 macrumors 68020

    May 23, 2011

    Meh, not impressive.

    Spam will always be a problem unless the SMTP protocol is retired, which is a huge deal.
  18. Stratus Fear macrumors 6502

    Jan 21, 2008
    Atlanta, GA
    While this is true (and I love this feature about gmail), where a ton of these might be in a spam list somewhere, it wouldn't be that hard for determined spammers to pull out the original address from that list with a regex. Apple solution sounds like it's an entirely different address, which would fix that problem entirely since you can just remove the alias.
  19. Doctor Q Administrator

    Doctor Q

    Staff Member

    Sep 19, 2002
    Los Angeles
    I'm glad to see Apple paying attention to the problem and working on solutions. The system they describe may not be the perfect solution, but neither are other proposals I've seen.

    Apple's approach, with temporary email addresses, is how many security-minded users already handle new accounts: create a new email address to sign up with a new vendor, access the email through your regular email account, and delete the address if it starts to receive spam or if you no longer need it. Automating the process would be a major convenience. Of course if the vendor is sending email that you want to retain and spammers are sending to the same address, that approach doesn't work.

    The ability to trace back spam is highly desirable. You may not pinpoint the spammer but if you pinpoint the chain of servers they connect to you can determine which servers to block, or automatically report use of a mail relay being used for spam.

    Gmail's spam filter is excellent, but other current systems are often ineffective. Systems that require a sender verification process (confirming who you are at a website) sound good on paper but are a major annoyance to senders and can prevent you from getting automated mail even when you've requested it.

    Blacklists have become common for major email services but often block legitimate senders. I've had email accounts on mail servers that were blacklisted by mistake, and it's not easy to get off the blacklist promptly.

    Whitelists have practical issues too. You indicate who you want email from and no other mail gets through, but you'd have to be very organized to maintain such a list, and when you sign up with a vendor you don't always know what email domains they use.

    This type of research may not produce THE answer, but it leads us to more choices, and that's good news.
  20. HiRez macrumors 603


    Jan 6, 2004
    Western US
    I think the idea is that you don't have to remember with this system. When you first use it you say you want a temporary address. It creates one and links it to your main account. It's probably randomly generated so you don't even need to think one up if you don't want to (think of it like the Keychain Password feature but for email addresses). From that point on, it will just appear as your normal email, and if you want to send mail to that address, the system will send using the generated temp email address, without you having to switch accounts or anything, because it knows that address is linked to a temp address, which it uses until you tell it to stop.
  21. lolkthxbai macrumors 65816


    May 7, 2011
    I'm doing something similar with my iCloud mail. iCloud allows you to create temporary alias so you don't have to give out your real email address. You can disable it once you're done using it. I take it a step further and take note of which alias I use and with which service. That way, if I start receiving spam I'll know who to blame.
  22. drew627 macrumors regular

    Jun 26, 2013
    But I've been able to do this for quite a while now? iCloud already has the feature. Its called aliases.


    Yeah, they already have it. This was filed in 2012 so apparently this refers to the current alias system.
  23. Illusion986 macrumors 6502


    Mar 12, 2009
    I like the idea. But apple is stingy when it comes to server storage space.
  24. jwh73 macrumors newbie

    May 10, 2010
  25. i-John macrumors 6502a


    Jul 14, 2008
    The Republic of Texas
    Patent what Yahoo have been doing for years.

    Disposable addresses aren't a new thing.

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