Glad to know I’m not the only one uncomfortable with emails that have return receipts: Digital Domain – In the E-Mail Relay, Not Every Handoff Is Smooth
Some entrepreneurs have seen that uncertainty and offered senders the ability to obtain receipts that a given message has been read — without the recipient’s knowing that a confirmation has been sent back to the sender. ReadNotify, based in Queensland, Australia, started in 2000 and promises to report not only on whether a message is read, but also on how long it is opened for reading on the recipient’s PC. It can also send the message in “self-destructing” form, preventing forwarding, printing, copying and saving. I admire ReadNotify’s ingenuity in presenting booby-trapped messages as being feature-rich.
Last week, Chris Drake, the head of ReadNotify, defended his company’s service. Some experts have questioned whether such technology is legal under American law, but Mr. Drake says “e-mail tracking is legal because e-mail is ‘owned’ by the author.”
A similar service, MsgTag, based in Wellington, New Zealand, does not want its features to seem overly intrusive. “We’re interested in peace of mind, not spying,” the site says. Its distinction? It does not report on how long the message was viewed.
There are many technical reasons that these services cannot reliably detect when a message has been read. But even when they work, I find their furtive nature offensive. […]