Things I didn't know about Gmail, volume one...

One of our high-powered product development people here called me over to his desk this morning. "I think there's a security problem with GMail," he said.

One of our high-powered product development people here called me over to his desk this morning. "I think there's a security problem with GMail," he said. "I keep getting emails for someone else with my name. They're something to do with Woolworths in Asia..."

Indeed, he showed me a few of the emails he'd been getting on his Gmail account, concerned with packaging issues and logistic strategies. His Gmail account was, say, Bernie.Badger@gmail.com; the emails were addressed to Berniebadger@gmail.com. Certainly looked like a problem.

A bit of digging, and it turned out that this is deliberate Gmail policy. It ignores dots in email names - once you've registered rupert.goodwins@gmail, then it doesn't matter how many (if any) dots there are in incoming email - r.u.p.er.t.g.o.o.d.w.i.n.s and rupertgoodwins will all resolve to the same inbox. The other Bernie Badger would have to be Bernie.Badger2 or some such variant: his colleagues, suppliers and so on had probably mistyped or guessed wrongly.

That's not a problem if you've got an unusual name, and if you've got a very common one you'll be used to having to use some wild variant. It's those in the middle who'll have problems.

I had something similar happen at the weekend myself. Apple has loaned me an iPhone 3G for a couple of weeks (so far, the email client has stopped displaying the body of messages and the GPS has been remarkably slow to get going. Addicted to the App Store, though). As is usual on short-term evaluation loans, it's come with a SIM. While the phone was clearly new, the SIM has been drawn from a pool - and someone has the number from a previous existence. I've had a few phone calls already for Steve and/or Peter.

But t's a good thing I wasn't out with the missus showing it off when the following text came in:

"Looks like it's nearly showtime! Waters have broken! x"

I replied wishing them luck while suggesting that they might try to check the number and try again...

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