Alarming number of spam false positives in Gmail

This morning, I was checking into some unfinished work on my side project, LiberWriter and  noticed that I hadn’t seen several emails.  I checked in Gmail’s spam folder and found around 15 emails that had been dumped there, without anything obviously wrong with them. Several were from customers wondering why they hadn’t heard anything from us.

Worried, I started digging further.  Here’s what I have found so far:

  • An email from the people at work regarding payments to me.  This is important stuff!
  • An important personal email.
  • Emails from JIRA at work.  I get a bunch of these every day; and while they are not high priority, not seeing them is potentially damaging for me and the company.
  • Several emails to the erlang-questions mailing list that were fairly typical and topical.
  • Update: I just found a large (10’s) of emails from the Apache Software Foundation.
  • Update 2: Another personal email, not that important, but not at all spammy.
  • Update 3: Numerous emails from the tcl-core and Postgres ‘general’ mailing lists.

Several of these things were pretty easy to search on, but I am now very worried that there may be many others which I am missing.  I do receive a lot of spam, and in the past, the Gmail team has done an excellent job of filtering things, which is why I have happily recommended it.  Google employs a lot of extremely intelligent and capable people, so the thought that they’re hard at work on the spam problem has always been a good one.

I don’t know what has changed though, but seeing all those emails discarded in spam gave me a bad scare and has got me really worried.  I live in email… and if I can’t trust it, I’m in big trouble.

Ironically, I am a paying customer of Google as of a few days ago, in order to have extra storage space.

Update 4: I got in touch with someone from Google, who said that there was indeed a problem and they are working to push a fix soon.  I’m really glad to hear that!

11 thoughts on “Alarming number of spam false positives in Gmail

    • In the past, Google has been way better at spam filtering than I could do on my own server. Also, it’s nice to just let someone else manage stuff like that: it gives me more time for open source, for my own side projects, family, hobbies, etc…. You can’t do everything yourself. But something has gone seriously wrong, as of late, it would seem.

      • “it gives me more time …”

        Any idea how much? Running a mail server need not cause any serious ongoing attention (or I must be doing it wrong then).

      • Obviously while it’s humming along, it’s not going to take much time, but setting it up properly, and having another thing to worry about *does* take time. Setting it up to do spam filtering *well* is by no means easy either. I could easily see wasting a couple of days on the whole thing, considering that I’d also need to evaluate a new mail client. That’s a decent amount of cash for me to forego when I can outsource it to someone who can (usually) do it better than me.

    • I noticed this almost 3 years ago, banks, iTunes, Paypal, UPS and more, I was able to get a phone number and they told me no problem they could fix it, wanted my credit card number and I said what for, well to fix it they wanted $170, I told them to shove where sun doesn’t shine, Don’t expect it to change.

  1. We have had this problem too within our company and many of our employees have had problems sending to gmail accounts. If others are seeing it, something is potentially very wrong with the Gmail spam detection system.

  2. I’ve been getting false positives most days, all of them for the reason “We’ve found that lots of messages from are spam.”

    Even senders that are in my contact list are being flagged as spam, seems crazy!

    • My wife and I have the same issue. dozens of mails from trusted addresses (ourselves, work, kids) ended up as false positives. Disturbing and annoying. Can’t find anything official from Google….

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