Sour Grapes
Of course we're Fair and Balanced!


36 things CA's anti-Gmail bill would break

I've said before, I don't understand the flap about Gmail. I'm intrigued by the idea of having a 1 gigabyte e-mail archive, but not enough to have them pawing through my messages.

However, I read some interesting things on Declan McCullagh's Politech list today. The first discusses some of the effects the bill Liz Figueroa introduced into the California legislature would have [slightly edited].

- Autoresponders that thank senders for their email about __x__
Most politicians' email addresses do this,
and most ISP technical support and complaint email addresses do this.
- Vacationmail responders that say you're not in the office right now,
especially the smart responders that don't reply to mailing lists.
- Closed-account responders that say your new email address is __x___
- the law might even be interpreted to say that SMTP can't
reject email that was sent to a non-existent account.
- Autoresponders that notify the sender that the email system does
automated processing and that their email cannot legally be accepted
because the sender is not a subscriber to the service.
- Autoresponders that inform the sender that if they'd _like_ to
subscribe to the service and give up lots of private information
in return for being allowed to send mail to its subscribers,
here's how.
- Autoresponders that tell the sender that they can
complain to
+1-916-445-6671 about this invasion of privacy.
- Mail servers that forward high priority messages to your pager
or to another email account or to your cellphone's email gateway
- Mailing list managers that accept subscribe/unsubscribe requests by mail.
This is especially bad, because that's an application
that you really want to run at an ISP instead of your home PC
for reliability reasons.
- Mailing list archivers that make your mailing list list available on the web
- Email-to-usenet gateways, email-to-ftp gateways (remember those?)
- Email gateways to cellphone text message services,
which usually delete all the mail headers and
turn html and Microsoft formatting into simple text
so you can read the mail on your phone
- Automatically sorting email into folders based on content,
such as putting different mailing lists into different folders
so you can read it more easily.
- Saving attachments into specific folders, such as a web photo service
that lets you send it pictures by email.
- Automatically downloading URLs for images from a web photo service
(this arguably involves third-party privacy,
depending on whether the URL indicates the recipient's info or not,
but there's no way for the recipient's ISP to know that,
and it's the recipient's ISP who's being banned here.)
- Web mail readers that mark high priority messages,
or let you use different colors for different kinds of mail.
The recipient may want this, but you can't do this with
email sent by non-subscribers. Even your friends or employer.
- Web mail readers that sort your mail by Subject: instead of date
- Web mail readers that show the date in your time zone instead of the sender's
- Web mail readers that don't show you the boring email headers
(like Received: or User-Agent: Mozilla Thunderbird 0.5
just the interesting ones like From: and Subject:
- Web mail readers that translate different email message formats
(like Microsoft RTF or Microsoft Word attachments)
and display them in a form you can read on the web.
- Text mail readers that output your message in a simpler form that
text-to-speech readers for blind people can use.
- Text-to-speech mail readers that also do the audio on the mail server.
This is not only useful for blind people, but it also
enables services like calling up your email by phone.
- Secure Mail services that automatically decrypt your incoming mail if
they can
- Secure mail services that automatically encrypt your incoming mail if
they can
- Email services that charge by volume of mail that you've received,
or don't let you receive mail or attachments if you're over quota.
The law's broadly ambiguous about what "otherwise evaluate" means.
- Web mail services that automatically maintain address books for you,
so you can send mail to "Figueroa" instead of typing
- Instant messaging systems that accept IMs from other providers
and not just their own subscribers, because those almost always
have to translate the format. This is an important
openness issue in the industry, and the law appears to forbid it.
- Instant-messaging-to-email gateways (both directions)
- Calendar systems that let you email appointments to them, if run by an ISP
- Calendar systems that accept Instant Messages for appointments
and run on open IM systems
- Calendar systems that send Instant Message reminders, if they're on open
IM systems
- Address-book services like Plaxo which let you send email updates
to tell their customers that you've moved.

There's more to this post, but you get the idea: this bill is a Bad Thing™, at least as written. I'll address the other relevant things I read later.

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