How long are read emails stored by providers?

John August 17, 2011

How long are emails stored by both sender and receiver email providers after being read?

  1. Mulder
    August 17, 2011 at 10:07 pm

    They're stored as long as you leave them in your account, unless the provider says they will delete them after a set period of time, or if you exceed your storage limit. For example. AOL will delete your email after 30 days unless you have a paid account or you move them to your own hard drive.

    • Jeffery Fabish
      August 18, 2011 at 12:40 am

      Mulder, again - not true.

      This depends greatly on which provider you're using. Some providers state in their EULA that your email is theres, since they transmit and store it. A recent scare with Google's EULA proved that this is legal. Although Google stated that it was a misunderstanding, this could have been real. 

      You'll want to check with your mail provider. Most state in the agreement how long you agree to allow them to keep it. Keep in mind that even after you delete the mail, it's not gone. Similar to deleting a file on your hard drive, unless you shred it - you must wait till it is overwritten for the file to truely be gone. 

      • Mulder
        August 18, 2011 at 4:40 am

        Again Jeffery, you're wrong.

        As I stated, your email is stored in your account as long as you, the user, leave it there, unless your email provider gives you a time limit as to how long they will store it before deleting it. With AOL (the example I gave), that's 30 days unless you have a paid account. There is no email provider that can legally claim your private messages are theirs, such EULAs would be declared null and void by the courts.

        In the U.S., the Stored Communications Act, which is part of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, severely limits the ability of government entities to compel an ISP to turn over content and non-content information about a user's email. If email actually belonged to the ISP instead of the user, there would be no such limit. That's why your assertion is patently false.

        Even if you believe that deleting an email stored online doesn't mean it's truly gone, you'd be proven wrong on that account as well. Both Google and Yahoo have confirmed that they have no way of recovering a message once you delete it. The same is likely true for other major ISPs. Even if it weren't, the legal hurdles the SCA poses would prevent the government from compelling it's disclosure, or any information about it without very good reasons.

        Before playing the part of know-it-all, you should understand all the issues and check your conceit at the door. Nobody knows everything, including me.

        • Jeffery Fabish
          August 18, 2011 at 6:22 am

          I'd like to see evidence that Google and Yahoo said that, please. You can't base your argument off of "likelyhood", especially in IT. 

          However the Patriot act (and soon to be IP Act) will allow them to snoop any information stored about you through a third party, granted they have a reasonable suspicion that you've committed a crime. Don't believe me? Read what the EFF has to say about it. ISP's are also forced to keep all records about a user for AT LEAST 12 months, read more about that here

          What do you think happens when you delete a file? You think it just magically disappears? No, they wouldn't go out of their way to recover it hence "THEY DONT" have a way to recover it. Unless the file is shredded, it's remains existent on the hard drive until overwritten. On the large multi-Terabyte hard drives providers use, it could take months before that email is overwritten. Shredding emails (especially in bulk) would consume far too much CPU overhead. 

          I'm not playing know it all, I simply ask you to do a little research. You're so stubborn lol.

        • Mulder
          August 18, 2011 at 2:03 pm

          You don't need to see evidence of anything; all you have to do is ask the right people: namely, their engineers, as I have done.

          The Patriot Act does not get around the Stored Communications Act, nor does the IP Act, especially since it hasn't been passed or signed into law. I know exactly what happens when you delete files on your computer; but that's not what we're talking about. The engineers at both Yahoo and Google have affirmed there is no way for them to recover an email once you delete it from one of their accounts.

          I've done my research, and I have many years of experience beyond yours, so for you to make the grand assumption that I don't do any research or have any knowledge of what I'm talking about is both arrogant and conceited.