Certified email is an email whitelisting technique by which an internet service provider allows someone to bypass spam filters when sending email messages to its subscribers, in return for paying a fee to the certifying service. A sender can then be sure that his messages have reached their recipients without being blocked, or having links or images stripped out of them, by spam filters. The purpose of certified email is to allow companies to reliably reach their customers by email, while giving recipients certainty that a certified message is legitimate and is not a forged phishing attempt.
One of the most well-publicized and controversial certified email services at present is CertifiedEmail by Goodmail Systems, which has made headlines since February 2006 when AOL and Yahoo announced plans to implement it. AOL has stated that mail from senders who have prepaid 1/4 cent per message will be delivered directly to users' mailboxes without being subject to spam filters. AOL has announced that it will pay the fee for non-profits. The messages will be clearly identified to the user as having come from a trusted source. These senders must pass a system of accreditation with Goodmail, and their messages must only be sent to people who have a pre-existing business relationship with the sender. If a sender sends a message to a user who has not previously agreed to receive it, AOL may entirely block the sender.
AOL asserts that free email on AOL's service will continue to work as it always has, and a user will continue to receive all messages from a sender whom he has whitelisted. AOL subscribers will not be charged for sending or receiving email, and senders who do not prepay AOL will have their messages subject to the same spam filters as before.
MoveOn organized a protest of AOL's use of certified email. It characterizes the program as an "email tax", and claims that AOL is giving spammers a direct route into users' mailboxes, while attempting to move more people to paid email by causing a larger amount of legitimate unpaid email to be rejected by the spam filters.
According to Comcast, Goodmail has ceased operations and as of February 4, 2011 Comcast will no longer use the service.
- Sandoval, Greg (March 3, 2006). "AOL to pay e-mail tab for nonprofits". CNET. Retrieved 2007-10-04.
- "Stop AOL email scheme". MoveOn. February 22, 2006.
- "An examination of MoveOn's claims". Urban Legends Reference Pages. February 23, 2006.
- http://security.comcast.net/certifiedemail/?cid=NET_33_1210&fss=certified%20email date=February 4, 2011