Hollywood whodunit: What's eating emails in iCloud?

A reader in show biz discovers Apple is sending his PDFs to email hell -- all because of the phrase 'barely legal teens'

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My first thought was that these attachments were getting axed by his security software, not Apple, so I asked him about that. Steven says no. He also tried emailing the PDF with the offending phrase from his wife's Web-based iCloud account to his own iCloud account. Being a Mac user, he doesn't use antimalware software (of course). Of course, that message never arrived. (InfoWorld ran similar tests and got similar results as the screenwriter: iCloud did not deliver emails that had terms such as "barely legal" in their attachments.)

He adds: "Perhaps that explains why over the years various PDFs of screenplays have disappeared and were never delivered -- for me and other screenwriters."

Is Apple routinely deleting attachments sent to or from iCloud, based on its own prudish standards of appropriateness? Its terms of service strongly implies it could do just that, if it wants to. Here's the relevant bit:

You acknowledge that Apple is not responsible or liable in any way for any Content provided by others and has no duty to pre-screen such Content. However, Apple reserves the right at all times to determine whether Content is appropriate and in compliance with this Agreement, and may pre-screen, move, refuse, modify and/or remove Content at any time, without prior notice and in its sole discretion, if such Content is found to be in violation of this Agreement or is otherwise objectionable.

One could assume the phrase "barely legal" falls under the "otherwise objectionable" part of that legalese, even when it's used in perfectly legal non-naughty contexts.

We all know the late Steve Jobs had a firm antiporn policy for the iTunes store. Even R- or PG-13-rated stuff sometimes didn't pass muster (though Apple seemed to apply its policy rather selectively -- racy Victoria's Secret and Sports Illustrated Swimsuit apps never had a problem getting approved). It's entirely possible this is a vestige of Jobs' desire to run a clean and wholesome service.

I've asked Apple's media department to confirm whether it's actively scanning all files in iCloud for keyword phrases like "barely legal" and deleting files that contain them. Some 48 hours later, I'm still waiting for a response. Honestly, I'd be shocked if get one. Egypt's Sphinx is more forthcoming than Apple's media relations department.

But I'd like to hear from you out there in Cringeville. What do you think? Are we missing something obvious? Or is Apple really playing porn cop on its customers -- even for things that aren't porn?

Have you had files 86'd by iCloud? Weigh in below or email me: cringe@infoworld.com.

This article, "Hollywood whodunit: What's eating emails in iCloud?," was originally published atInfoWorld.com. Follow the crazy twists and turns of the tech industry with Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Field blog, and subscribe to Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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