Sunday, September 17, 2006

Gmail spam filtering: A crisis with Gmail threatens all Google services

I posted this on Google Groups: Problem-solving (Update: 8 hours later, it's yet to appear on the the forum. It's good thing I'm not prone to paranoia ...).

My Google Gmail account is dying from dysfunctional spam filtering. That's bad enough, but the role of Gmail as the centerpiece of Google's identity management strategy means there are surprisingly widespread implications ...
... On a weekend 80% of my inbox is spam. During the work week 50-70% of my inbox is spam. My spam box has about 2000+ spam in it each month.

On the other hand, messages I send to myself using my authsmtp account using my return address are ALWAYS treated as spam. Based on my experiments I believe Google has blacklisted my personal domain - (see It's a personal domain that, like many others, has been faked in signatures by spammers for years. Google appears to be using a kind of blacklisting that is lowest form of spam control and hasn't worked for years. No serious ISP uses such a crude approach any longer.

In contrast my non-Gmail accounts get only a few spam every day and almost never treat non-spam messages as spam. Yahoo does remarkably well, but the open source solutions my ISP uses also work well. I have no experience with AOL or MSN. I'm told the .Mac spam filtering is awful too, maybe they use the same approach as Google.

So I have a few questions:

1. How can one appeal what appears to be Google domain-specific blacklisting?

2. Is there a signed email or domain authentication approach that Google honors and that would improve the accuracy of their spam filtering? I may switch to an ISP that supports domain signing if that would help.

3. How the heck do we get Google to admit it has a serious problem with its spam filtering methodologies?

I was the first Google users at a our .com startup in the 90s, back when Alta Vista was king and well before anyone had hard of Google. I was one of the very early cohort of Gmail adopters. I "bleed Google". So it's noteworthy that Google's use of Gmail as the centerpiece of their identity management strategy means a problem with Gmail threatens the entire Google relationships,

My Gmail account is my Google digital identity. If I abandon it I walk away from Google checkout and a heck of a lot of other Google services. Soon my blogger account will be tied to my Gmail identity, and I have thousands of postings in my active blogs [jf: also my $30/year Picasa Web Albums]. A crisis with Gmail is a crisis with a huge range of Google services. Gmail's spam issues have now reached that crisis point.

If Google can't fix this I'll have to walk away from my Google identity. They need to give their spam problems FAR more attention that they have to date. They have the resources, how can we get their attention?
Google has had a similar problem with their splog detection methodologies. I'm seeing much more of a downside in a close relationship to Google. We have much to learn about the consequences of a corporation owning one's digital identity. It won't be pretty.

Update: See also.

Update 9/18/06: My post to Google's help group still has not appeared, but really, not much is showing up there. I wonder if they've got a technical problem. I did solve the problem for myself at least. If you add a name to your contacts list it won't be filtered out.

Update 9/19/06: Well, it seems Google's Gmail help group has consigned my postings to the bitbucket. I've reworked all my mail streams and I'm back to the old days of POP/IMAP. I tried Yahoo's beta webmail service but really, it's exceedingly ugly. I will definitely miss Gmail, but overall this may work better for me. My guess is that my mail redirection was the problem. All the spam sent to my personal domain account streamed unfiltered at Google with two results -- Google decided my domain was bad news and it overwhelmed Gmail's feeble spam defenses. Now that stream will hit only (postini filtering) but they've handled it for years. Gmail is forwarding to my visi account as well.

Update 9/21/06: Light at the end of the tunnel?


Jordan Dove said...

Ridiculous, it seriously is.

Anonymous said...

Google just went mad. I had different gmail accounts for many year and in the last few days I found out that terminated a few of them. I have never spammed anyone. Google never warned me. I hope I could sue them.