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Thursday, November 15, 2007


Maybe I am preaching to the converted, but I have to get this off my chest. Because it seems that this crime is still being committed with impunity across the Internet.

Only this morning, I received an e-mail from someone who I thought knew better. It was a legitimate marketing mailing, sent to some 100 recipients, advertising a relevant product. Nothing wrong with that.

But how do I know how many recipients there were? Because the e-mail address of every single one of them was there for all to see in the TO: field of the e-mail. Including mine. Why do I have a problem with that? Because I have a problem with receiving spam (let's say I don't take kindly to it) and so I guard my e-mail address jealously, giving it only to those who I think will not misuse it. But now my e-mail address has been freely distributed to a hundred people, many of them unknown to me.

I think it is not unreasonable to fear that in the coming weeks and months I can expect all kinds of unsolicited mail, including chain letters, signups to various sites and probably eventually spam, as my address gradually widens its circulation.

The solution?
Actually, it's not a solution, it's a piece of basic netiquette. If you are writing an e-mail to more than one person, where those people are not known to each other or not part of a team, you MUST use the BCC: field, NOT the TO: field in your e-mail program. You can find out how to do this in your particular e-mail program very easily, so there is absolutely no excuse.

By placing all the recipients' e-mail addresses in the BCC: field, and a dummy address of some kind, or perhaps your own address in the TO: field, you will still be able to send your e-mail to multiple recipients, but they will not be able to see each other's e-mail addresses and in fact will have no idea of the circulation of the e-mail.

E-mail users have a right to privacy, and they certainly have a right to protect their e-mail address from spammers. If you are not using the BCC: field then you are part of the problem.


Anonymous said...

I heartily agree with this. People seem so careless about it. I never remember to tell people that I do not want group emails. Particularly if they are doing a charity event they seem to think it is OK.

markowe said...

Sigh... I really don't know the solution, only that I have taken to having multiple email addresses and am careful about whom I give which email.

But the unfortunate thing is it is often your friends who are guilty of this crime and you can't just shout at them like you would at a complete stranger (hmm, why is that!!?) and you want them to have your email address obviously!