Secure email?

h1 October 17th, 2008

A friend has evidence that people are sending him emails that he never receives.  He has asked me what he can do about it.

This is not a new problem.  Email never has been a secure or certain method of delivering messages.  For example in an article “Too Many Lost Emails Leave us Unconnected“, written in 2004, Ray Everett-Church laments:

Today, a shockingly large amount of email is purposely lost. Some ISPs drop, delete, or delay billions of emails a day on purpose. Most of this is done in the name of security and spam-fighting. For example, many ISPs with dial-up access service will specifically block the ability of those using the dial-up connections from sending mail via any server not owned by that ISP.

I don’t think much has changed in the last 4 years.

So what are the options?

One option my friend is asking for is an automatic acknowledgement of receipt.  This would go along with a note on the website to the effect that “if you do not receive an automated response to your email, it means that either your message, or the response has got lost in transit.”

Another option that I’m thinking of implementing is a message system on his website.  This would allow anyone to leave a message for my friend that would be kept in a database on the website that my friend would check regularly for new messages.

In “Alternatives to Email“, Rob Hyndman suggests using wikis.  While this is good in the small work group collaboration sphere that he writes about, not suitable for private or confidential correspondence from first time contacts.

In “Facebook As An Email Alternative“, Nick O’Neill suggests, as the title says, Facebook as an alternative.

In “Alternatives to email“, Jordan Furlong has three suggestions, extranet with RSS feed for clients, legs or phone for colleagues down the hall, and cooperation tools such as Google Calendar and Google Docs.  These are good for people you are already in communication with, but not for those first contacts that my friend has been loosing.

If I’ve understood Penny Edwards in “Alternative to email“, she suggests using twitter to let people know your ’status’ or what you are doing and how you can be contacted at any one time. Then people can contact you via a variety of means including instant messaging and networking sites.

Another alternative would be to use the private messaging feature of Xing.

Are there other options that you could suggest?

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