A dash of Pepper…

…with a splash of Mint

M for Mess

Posted by Pepper on May 9, 2019

That is the one word that describes my Gmail inbox. It is such a dreadful mess that I find myself clueless – how am I supposed to clean this up, ever?

I got my Gmail ID when Google had just launched their email service. Back then, not everybody was privy to it. The Blogspot users got 3 invites and I bagged an invite from Mint because at that time in 2004, I used to blog on this platform called ‘blogdrive’. Mint was a Blogspot user and I insisted he save a Gmail invite for me. I was ecstatic and I can safely say I was one of the very early users of Gmail. This email Id has stayed with me for the longest time.

I’m not sure what went wrong and at what point, but slowly, I started noticing a ton of spam. Over time, my email has turned into a junk factory. The sheer volume of unsolicited, undesirable and sometimes illegal emails I get is unmanageable. Clicking on ‘unsubscribe’ doesn’t help. Blocking those email IDs also doesn’t help. And I am not going to even get into how I never subscribed to that crap in the first place. Okay fine, I know this happens to most of us.

But here is what doesn’t happen to most, but seems to be happening with me. My email ID has a dot in it. Now I know there is another ID, which is essentially the same ID that doesn’t have the dot. I am actually confused about how this can even happen, because by Google’s own admission, dots don’t matter in Gmail addresses. BUT there are 2 IDs owned by 2 different people, only differentiating factor is the dot. How?

Let’s call this other person Pepper2. I have no clue who she is. But I know Pepper2 has one son, 8 years old. She lives in Delhi. Her son has been getting a mix of A and B grades, but mostly As. She recently took a vacation to Greece. I’m fully aware of her itinerary and flight ticket costs. She is moving to Bangalore and trying to sell most of her furniture in Delhi. I know all this because all of her email comes to me. And all the emails show my email address, without the dot.

This makes me hugely concerned. Is someone else also having access to all of my email? My inbox is a junkyard, but it is also a treasure trove. It contains mails and chat histories that are very dear to me. And it is linked to my bank accounts and a lot of other services I have signed up for.

Sometimes, I entertain the thought of starting over with a new email ID. Just to kind of purge my past and start clean. But the thought is kicked out almost instantly.  I am not the kind to break ties with my past that easily. After all, like I said, the inbox contains some gold. So I go back to where I began. What do I do?

17 Responses to “M for Mess”

  1. write to pepper2 and to gmail to find out why? this is a huge privacy concern

  2. Jazz said

    Hey Ims has the same problem of email id with a dot. He often gets emails regarding marriage proposals which are clearly for the other email without a dot. I’m not sure if they receive some of our important email too? So far, nothing fishy happened due to that. But its strange happening with gmail.

    • Pepper said

      Oh poor Ims. He has my sympathies. I know how annoying this gets after a while of seeing those emails… how is he addressing this problem?

  3. parithi said

    while google only knows that dot bug in Gmail, I can give some tips on organizing yours gmail and I do it for my trashy Inbox. I use filters provided by GMail. Its super useful in segregating the mail. You can put the mail to Pepper2 in a separate Mail folder or even go ahead and forward to original intended Pepper2. The filters work for old,existing and future mails. :mrgreen:

  4. Akhila said

    I have the same problem. In my case my email is the one with the dot. I know that the other person is a journalist & I often get invites for events, CVs for perusal… I used to forward those emails to the ID without the dot & wrote an email to her about the situation. Got no reply. Now, I just delete the emails meant for her.
    However, like you said, I don’t know how many of my emails does she get 😦

  5. Pepper come back and finish your challenge! You are half way through and I miss reading your posts. You are denying me the pleasure of reading them. Come back:-)

  6. Bikramjit said

    Did you manage to resolve this.. as someone above said this is a security risk. .

  7. Oh you reminded me of the time I saved up one of my very precious Gmail invites to be sent to my bestie. Both of us still use the same old IDs.
    And about the junk thta I receive because my name is too common is huge, the other person with my name seems to be a recruiter for nurses. I get mails with passports scans and other details. No use letting the other person know that I have been getting her mail. Now I just delete them. 😦

  8. Akshay said

    Ok kids, rant time! Gather ’round!

    Have a look at these links in your personal Google account:
    https://myaccount.google.com/data-and-personalization (browse around the different sections here)

    Did you know that this activity is being collected? Every email, every single thing you’ve told Google Home, every location you’ve been to with your phone, every YouTube video you’ve watched, it’s all being tracked. You’ve used GMail for 14-15 years now? They have all that data neatly profiled and categorized.

    I don’t want to single out Google here. Many, many other companies do the same thing, including Amazon, Apple, Facebook, to varying degrees. Some, like Apple, claim to be more privacy conscious, but there is no way that we, the people, can audit their code and practices and hold them accountable.

    Many people say “well, whatever” and carry on with life. After all, it’s so inconvenient to stop using YouTube and Maps. (I know I can’t). And we’re getting all these cool services for free.

    But you know what? Software has bugs. Just like the one you described in this blog post. As we give more and more of our personal data away to these companies, the impact of these bugs (and security breaches) becomes more and more significant. I’m not even getting into the potential political applications of all these data, but I will just say that it is already being weaponized, and that’s not a tinfoil-hat conspiracy theory.

    I have started avoiding GMail, Facebook and many other “free”, advertisement based services as much as I can. I have set up my own email account on my own domain. I can do this because I work in tech, and I know how to configure DNS servers and all that shit. Right now I’m using Zoho as a mail service provider. If I don’t like them in the future, I can take my money elsewhere, while keeping my email account the same. (Btw, yes, I’m paying about 500 bucks a year for my email account.)

    Unfortunately, things can get too difficult for the average user if they want to take matters into their own hands. But what you can do is look critically at the business models of these companies and see how they’re getting their money. It will then become clear whose interests they care about.

    I would highly recommend that you move away from GMail. Paid services like FastMail and ProtonMail are better alternatives. You can download all of your existing email from Gmail from here https://myaccount.google.com/dashboard

    Also throw away your Google Homes.

    Many of these Silicon Valley techbro-type companies (think Google, Uber, Elon Musk) are extremely arrogant and think that they can solve all of the world’s problems using technology alone. They deliberately make it very hard to people to get customer support. But then again, are you the customer, or the product?

    • Pepper said

      I get what you are saying but I am really unsure how to tackle this problem. Like you said, you can’t stop using Youtube or maps. And my own home has not one but FOUR Google Homes. We should probably trash them considering none of the conversations we have at home are secure.

      I should move away from GMail though. This has been going on for too long. I don’t mind the small fee you have to pay for other services, but I have some other concerns about how they function. For that, I think I will ping you.

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