AT&T and Self-Destructing Email

Discussion in 'In The News' started by roundabout, Jul 5, 2013.

  1. roundabout

    roundabout VIP

    Feb 17, 2011
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    AT&T Wants To Invent Self-Destructing Email

    AT&T's patent for "self-destructing e-mail" went public late last month, revealing the company wants to give people more control over their online messages.

    The patent, originally filed in November 2012, notes that the new technology would let people send emails that self-destruct after they're read, or after a certain period of time, regardless of whether they've been read. Recipients of the self-destructing emails would be able to prevent the notes from being forwarded or saved. The technology is similar to a number of privacy-centric messaging services already on the market.

    If you send emails you're afraid might come back to haunt you, AT&T's self-destructing emails might be a godsend -- they certainly could have helped those Enron executives several years back. But if you think the technology is a clever way to hide your emails from the National Security Agency, you might be out of luck. While the emails themselves would self-destruct, they may still be stored on AT&T's servers before being wholly deleted.

    This e-mail will self-destruct in five seconds

    Like a "Mission Impossible" tape, e-mails could disintegrate before unauthorized eyes get a chance to view them, according to an AT&T patent application.


    Ever lose sleep over e-mails you've sent? Messages of an embarrassing nature that make you wish you hadn't clicked on "send"?

    AT&T is thinking of you. It applied for a patent for self-deleting e-mail. Once sent, these missives won't hang around in some inbox waiting for someone to do what he pleases with them. They'll disintegrate, so to speak.

    "Method, System, and Apparatus for Providing Self-Destructing Electronic Mail Messages" is U.S. patent application number 20130159436 and was recently made public.

    The application outlines an e-mail client system and server application that can send and receive messages that self-delete.

    The filing notes that e-mails, once sent, are outside the control of the sender. They can be copied, saved, printed, or forwarded.

    "The inability to control the number and type of operations that may be subsequently performed on a sent e-mail message makes conventional e-mail systems unsuitable for sending confidential information for which absolute control of distribution is a necessity," the application states.

    It goes on to say that some e-mail systems that allow users to set up their client so that messages are deleted after a certain period of time. Still, the power to destroy the message remains in the hands of the recipient.

    The application describes how the client and application will destroy the message at a set time, with the option to do so regardless of whether it's been read or not. They will also limit what can be done with the message.

    "The e-mail message will be destroyed by the e-mail client application whether or not the message has been read. Alternatively, if the e-mail message specifies that it should be deleted after it has been read, the e-mail client application will destroy the e-mail message once it has been opened and closed by the recipient. All instances of the e-mail message are deleted from the recipient's computer."

    Now what would the NSA think about that?


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