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PostPosted: March 22, 2004 2:57 PM 

As email spam continues to grow, the use of "whitelisting" is a growing technique. The opposite of blacklisting, whitelisting entails the creation of a list of email addresses from which you are willing to accept email. Used by itself, this technique is extremely successful in preventing spam, but it has obvious problems: 1) You have to constantly update your whitelist, and 2) you can never receive email from people who don't know you (yet). There are a number of techniques to address the latter, which usually involve sending non-whitelisted senders to a web page for validation first, which is a real pain.

Another approach is to expand the whitelist concept to include the whitelists of the people on your whitelist. In others words, allow email from friends-of-friends. And perhaps also from friends-of-friends-of-friends, depending on your personal preference. This technique relies on the trust inherent in social networks. As long a my contacts aren't friends with known spammers, it is probably safe to receive email from them also.

The system could be made more complex by adding reputation or trust-scores into the mix, which would extropolate through each degree of your social network. Email messages could then be scored according to the social network path that connects you to the sender. This approach would enable you to receive all messages, but score each based on your connectivity to the sender. Messages from senders who are not connected to you (according to your preferences) would be scored low (or high, as the case may be) and perhaps auto-sorted into a lower priority folder.

While this idea appeals to me, it seems there may be some major problems with it. First, the cumulative whitelist of my social network could be huge (millions of addresses) depending of the degrees of seperation chosen. I am not a computer scientist, but I wonder if this poses a processing problem. Also, this wouldn't work if the network data were openly and freely available. The spammer would just use the data to make sure they spoofed your best friends' email addresses every time (which would make their spam even more effective). So a system would be needed to ensure that the network information was not easily available - at least not on such a broad scale that spammers could use it to send mass mailings. In addition to these, I am sure there are other challenges. If they can be overcome, I think there is real potential in this approach as a way of filtering or scoring incoming email.


PostPosted: March 23, 2004 9:36 AM 

You may want to check LOAF

LOAF is a simple extension to email that lets you append your entire address book to outgoing mail message without compromising your privacy. Correspondents can use this information to prioritize their mail, and learn more about their social networks.

LOAF creates and maintains a database of all your correspondents, defined as people to whom you have sent email at least once. Every time you send an email message, LOAF appends this information to the email message, using a format described further below. LOAF-enabled correspondents collect and store this information in their own local databases.

When you receive an email from an address you have not previously written to, LOAF checks to see if the email address is known to any of your existing correspondents. This essentially sorts incoming email into three categories:

1. Mail from complete strangers
These are people whom you do not know, and who are also unknown to your correspondents.

2. Mail from partial strangers
These are people you have never sent email to, but who have gotten email from at least one of your own correspondents. This email may deserve more attention, since at least one of your correspondents took the time to write back to the person.

3. Mail from people you know.
This last category consists of people whom you have written to before. Presumably this is email you're most interested in, unless it's another forward from your mom.

Mail in category (2) can be further classified by counting how many correspondents you and the sender have in common. If the originating email appears in the address books of several of your correspondents, this may indicate a person with whom you have many connections. Insert standard social network theory here.

Mark Carey

PostPosted: March 23, 2004 11:15 AM 

That's for the link Paolo. Very cool, along the same idea.


PostPosted: October 31, 2011 2:46 AM 


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