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Author Topic: Self-destructing email
Ugh, MightyClub
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Icon 1 posted April 27, 2007 06:26      Profile for Ugh, MightyClub     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
A while back someone, MoMan, I think, asked whether any of us knew of a way to make email self-destruct once it has been read. I don't think anyone had any bright ideas at the time but I recently came across a reference to "Void Communications' disappearing e-mail messages" in the December 2006 Swaine's Flames, in the back of Dr. Dobb's. I looked them up and found their VaporStream product, which seems to be close to the functionality we were originally talking about.

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Ugh!

Posts: 1742 | From: Ithaca, NY | Registered: Dec 2004  |  IP: Logged
dajt
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Icon 1 posted April 27, 2007 07:12      Profile for dajt     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
It probably wouldn't work for me, because I read my mail on a Linux system. Each message gets placed in its own file in my Maildir, where I can read it with more (or vi, or whatever) and make as many copies of it as I want with any copy command. If it works by sending an html "message" with a link to the content strored on a remote server, my spamfilter will delete it, so I'll never see it. And if I did get a message like that that I *had* to read, I'd read it in lynx in a script session, so every byte would be logged. . .

And then there's the method that gets used for a lot of Linux kernel bug reports: take a digital photo of the screen.

Bottom line: You can sort of make it kinda work for unsuspecting and unsophisticated users, but it's essentially snake-oil.

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We've succeeded when a Linux release is front page news.

Posts: 98 | From: Boston MA USA | Registered: Jan 2001  |  IP: Logged
Ashitaka

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Icon 1 posted April 27, 2007 07:50      Profile for Ashitaka     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
didn't somebody post the suggestion of bigstring.com. I signed up for an email account there (though I have not yet used it except to test it with my main account.) seemed to work pretty well. I sent a horrible messege to myself that self destructed after 30 seconds.

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"If they're not gonna make a distinction between Muslims and violent extremists, then why should I take the time to distinguish between decent, fearful white people and racists?"

-Assif Mandvi

Posts: 3089 | From: Switzerland | Registered: Feb 2006  |  IP: Logged
dragonman97

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Icon 1 posted April 27, 2007 08:09      Profile for dragonman97   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Amen, dajt. [Smile]

Can't we all agree that this is pretty dumb 'tech,' and just let it die?

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There are three things you can be sure of in life: Death, taxes, and reading about fake illnesses online...

Posts: 9332 | From: Westchester County, New York | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Ugh, MightyClub
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Icon 1 posted April 27, 2007 12:12      Profile for Ugh, MightyClub     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Hey, I never said it was good tech, just that it exists [Smile]

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Ugh!

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quantumfluff
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Icon 1 posted April 27, 2007 13:03      Profile for quantumfluff     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
When the DRM people finally get their way, self destructing email will be possible. It will contain the bits which say view once, no screen shots allowed, only display through a trusted encrypted path out to DRM compliant display.

When that day comes, my mailer server will be upgraded to bounce those back to sender as a (for those of you up on your SMTP) "559 Sender Owned Content Prohibited"

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Just_Jess_B

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Icon 1 posted April 27, 2007 13:17      Profile for Just_Jess_B   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I want emails to stay as written accounts. Considering the liars all over everywhere? It'd be nice to not have the "magical disappearing ink" emails so that people who enjoy throwing others under buses can write them without recourse.

Of course, it would possibly make it easier to catch them because of two words: screen capture.

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Opinion is not Truth; that is why each has its own definition. Illiteracy sucks.

Posts: 1370 | From: Whaddya mean, Arizona? | Registered: May 2003  |  IP: Logged
dragonman97

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Icon 1 posted April 27, 2007 14:16      Profile for dragonman97   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Another important point - proof of the content. Everyone /should/ be digitally signing e-mail to prove that it hasn't been tampered with, but as we all know...that never took on, as it's too hard for most people. All this talk of making e-mail disappear is kind of silly when you consider the fact that you can't be prove that the message you got is the real one.

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There are three things you can be sure of in life: Death, taxes, and reading about fake illnesses online...

Posts: 9332 | From: Westchester County, New York | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Ugurcan

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Icon 1 posted April 28, 2007 02:16      Profile for Ugurcan   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
One word..

Printscreen

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"Constants aren't, Variables won't..."

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Ashitaka

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Icon 1 posted April 28, 2007 03:13      Profile for Ashitaka     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
So can we all agree then that these self destructing e-mails are fundementally flawed but would easily work agaisnt 90% of the internet population.

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"If they're not gonna make a distinction between Muslims and violent extremists, then why should I take the time to distinguish between decent, fearful white people and racists?"

-Assif Mandvi

Posts: 3089 | From: Switzerland | Registered: Feb 2006  |  IP: Logged
quantumfluff
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Icon 1 posted April 28, 2007 07:01      Profile for quantumfluff     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Actually, self destructing email is sort of mythical in the first place. Even if there was a way to make the bits disappear after you read them, the records of mail delivery would still exist on the machines which processed the SMTP traffic. If you read mail in a corporate setting, the entire message may still linger even AFTER it is deleted. Logs and audit trails tell you a lot of information.*

The VaporStream product mentioned above does not solve any of these problems. In the FAQ you find out that it does not even work for email. It works only for messaging through the VaporStream network, which both parties must subscribe to. It is only useful for consensual anonymity.

*And I have experience to back that up. I was a prosecution witness in an internet identity case. My web and email logs were used as evidence of some guy harvesting email addresses from a web site and then sending email purporting to be from someone else. I got to testify in federal court.

Posts: 2902 | From: 5 to 15 meters above sea level | Registered: Jun 2000  |  IP: Logged


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