Microsoft does not care about Outlook “Not read” bug

by Peter Horsten on 24th September 2009

Credits: Stock.xchng An e-mailSome days ago a client informed me he received 33 messages sent by me. In general, I communicate a lot with our clients, but 33 emails within short time is too much even for me. My first thought was: “My Outlook got compromised”. Some days and a lot of research later I realized it is just a bug in Outlook 2007. A bug that has been ignored by Microsoft for almost two years! What to do? Outlook sends “Not read” messages to my clients without my approval. Probably you will understand that this is not the impression I want to make, not to mention the abuse all kind of spammers can make of this Outlook bug!  Being a Microsoft Gold Partner I prefer to use Microsoft products. But this Outlook issue is a serious security breach that should have been taken care of a long time ago.

Outlook sending “Not read” messages without approval

First of all, I don’t like that people try to track what I am doing with their emails. I just don’t want them to know whether I read their message or not. Therefore, I switched the tracking option in Outlook 2007 off: “Never send a response“. On a daily basis, I handle a huge amount of emails by reading them in the preview pane. Afterward, I move them to a client folder. The message status will be not read. Because I read the message I just don’t want the senders to receive a message that I didn’t read the message. That would give them a wrong impression. Despite the setting it turns out that Outlook is still sending these confirmation messages in several cases. Microsoft Outlook 2007 tracking options

The issue has several faces

For me the issue appeared after the auto archiving function started moving older emails to the archive. Probably I have been ignoring the archive request already for some time and suddenly it started archiving many older emails. After some research I conclude that this issue also appears when an email is (automatically) moved e.g. to a junk folder.  Most people report the issue especially in combination with Gmail IMAP synchronization. As soon as Outlook started syncing my (archived) mail folders it started sending “Not read” messages. Gmail advises not to use the spam filtering by Outlook, but if you did not switch off  this option, spam will be moved to the local junk folder and could result in a “Not read” message towards the spammer as well. From that moment he knows that your email address is the correct one!

Issue known for two years already

The astonishing part of the story is that Microsoft has been aware of this issue for almost two years. On December 11, 2007 this bug was reported as: Outlook 2007 IMAP bug. Users have described several work arounds, but Microsoft hasn’t provided a solution yet. A hotfix by Microsoft a year later should have solved at least a part of the bug, but users reported that it didn’t change anything for them. Also SP2, released in June 2009, doesn’t seem solve this bug according to several people.

Should I stop using Outlook?

Unfortunately, many “Not read” messages were waiting to be sent again, so I switched my Outlook to “offline” mode to prevent this. Meanwhile I updated to SP2 hoping this would fix it. I managed to delete the pending messages one by one with the help of OutlookSpy together with these instructions. For the time being my auto archiving will be off. Did you also notice this issue? In case you found a solution please leave your tips as a comment below. Feel free to discuss this issue with us on Twitter: @GOYELLO.
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