More Privacy Issues With iMessage

I already spotted one issue with iMessage and blogged about it here: Big problem with iMessaging. That was a problem with the privacy of the texts I send. But there is more to the story, as I've just (highly unfortunately) figured out. There is no way to selectively block people from messaging you if you both use iMessage.

The implications of this have slowly sunk in during the course of my trying to find a way to keep someone away from me, and it's a big problem. Apple needs to address this, particularly before the final release of Mountain Lion, in which iMessages are tied into all chats.That feature is the main reason I was excited about Mountain Lion; I love being able to chat Mac-to-phone. It's faster if I'm sitting at my Mac. Works great. However. If you end up needing to prevent one of your contacts from blowing up your phone with endless streams of messages, you will find out that

  • The only way to block a number via the carrier, at least if it's AT&T, is to pay $5 per month for parental restrictions and then add that number to the blocked list
  • This method works only for actual SMS messages and not "instant messaging," which iMessage qualifies as
  • If you deactivate iMessage on your phone as a final act of desperation, two undesirable consequences occur:
    1. People who have been "texting" you via your e-mail address through iMessage on your phone (which is transparent, because if the messages are getting through, do you check to see if it's going via your contacts' phone numbers or e-mail addresses?) are now texting into a void unless you are at your Mac receiving the messages through Messages, and
    2. if you ARE at your Mac receiving iMessages, the person you're trying to avoid can reach you too unless you turn off your iMessage account in Messages, in which case the people you are NOT trying to avoid now cannot reach you by any means.

This seems like an obscure problem until it happens to you just one time, at which point your options are to cripple your messaging capabilities to the point that it's useless to even have them (because your iMessage messages going to your e-mail address will float into, apparently, nowhere) OR put up with being harassed. At that point, it goes from obscure to serious.

The best way I can see to fix this is for Apple to add an option to the Contacts app, perhaps a toggle, allowing you to specify whether to allow iMessaging from that person. It could be on by default, but it would allow selectivity without messing with the carriers' evident unwillingness to block phone numbers. At least with such an option, you could pay for the parental block and set an option to receive only SMS messages from the person involved---then they'd be subject to the block and everyone else could still use iMessage.