The other day I watched another lawyer claim in open court that he hadn’t been served with something that was hand-delivered to him. I thought to myself that it would be cool if proper service were allowed by electronic mail and then you could track the delivery and verify its receipt. Usually, the mere fact that the E-mail didn’t bounce back is a good indication that the recipient got the email. But nowadays we have spam filters acting as network border guards, so the old “I didn’t get the email” excuse is still a viable one.
But what if you could truly verify that not only did someone get the email, but you could tell exactly when they read it? Well, you can if you use a service called DidTheyREADit? You can try the service out for free 10 times by registering online. If you want to pay for the service it costs $49.99/yr. It’s not infallible, but the company touts a 98% effectiveness rate. For an explanation of how it works and the basic FAQ click here.
P.S. If you want a better practice, check out this Ultimate Guide.
I signed up for the “DidTheyReadIt.com” service (the free trial) and proceeded to test it. And I can break it. Easily.
1. If you read e-mail on a UNIX system (text based e-mail), the service simply does not work. It appears that basically they are exploiting HTML e-mail to do their tracking… when you load an e-mail routed through their system, they tag it with some HTML, so when the recipient opens the e-mail, the HTML code is loaded. The HTML code basically requests an image from their server… when that “image” is requested, they know the mail has been opened.
2. If you read e-mail on a web based system, specify that images/html not be downloaded from other servers.The web e-mail package I use (NeoMail) breaks their service.
3. Finally, because e-mail with their tracking system has to be routed through their servers in order to tag the message, it would be very easy to configure your mail server to simply reject messages from that domain.
4. Their service tags your e-mail, effectively making it a 2 part MIME Message. You could also pretty easily write a script to scan for their attachment, purge it, and then pass the mail on to the reader.
Now, granted, I’m not a typical user… I’m savvy enough to know how to do these things. But if you’re talking about *reliable* tracking for something like serving summons, e-mail just doesn’t deliver. And if sys admins catch on that users don’t like having e-mail tracked, a service like this could be defeated for an entire organization with a few lines of code sitting on the incoming mail server.