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Don’t Brush Off Email Privacy

Business Email and Privacy Etiquette

Do you show a blatant disregard for your contact’s privacy? For example, do you send group emails with long lists of addresses visible in the To: or Cc: fields? Is the only thing that the list of folks has in common is you?

You Should Guard Contacts Privacy

We’ve all had this happen to us. We receive messages or forwarded emails from business contacts. We then notice that we are listed along with those they send to in the To: or Cc: field. By doing this, they are exposing our email addresses to strangers.

Some have commented that this is “no big deal” since business emails are pretty much public. Therefore, no no harm, no foul.

Another excuse I’ve been given is, “we all want as much exposure for our businesses that we can get, right?” Wrong. This assumes that exposing our contact’s email addresses to strangers is good for their business.

Not Your Decision to Make

Email addresses are a bit different in that once circulated; the spam starts flowing in. Speaking for myself, I don’t want anyone to publish my email address on my behalf.

Of course, this doesn’t include meetings, agendas, plans, or collaboration emails. Where a handful of folks need to know who is involved, this makes sense. They have either talked on the phone or know the group involved in the mailing under previous conversations.

It is not proper email etiquette, or business courtesy, to expose contact information of any kind without permission. As a general guideline, when you have a long list of contacts, use the BCc. This keeps your email professional in appearance and avoids the risk of unappreciated exposure.

Issues of Concern

Your contacts most likely do not appreciate exposing their addresses to those they do not know without their permission. However, just because they’ve not said anything doesn’t mean that’s not the case.

Those who have been on the receiving end by being included in a list of visible emails have two issues of concern:

  • How do I let this person know I don’t appreciate them publicizing my email address to people I don’t know? What were they thinking!?

Reply to their email (not Reply to All) and ask them nicely if in the future they would refrain from exposing your email address in the To: or Cc: field to people that you do not know. You have the right to make this request.

  • Is it okay to email all the other people whose address is in the To: or Cc: field about my business or service?

No. The fact is that there will be those who exploit this visibility, and you will be the cause. This is not solid ground to form long-term trustworthy partnerships, don’t you agree?

Never assume you can contact visible addresses about unrelated issues, topics, or ventures just because those addresses are visible (due to the Sender not respecting everyone’s privacy) in an email sent to you.

When sending to a group of business onliners, put your email address in the To: field and your list of addresses in the BCc: field to protect those email addresses from unnecessary exposure.

Where is the BCc:?

Many comment that they don’t know where to find the BCc: in their email programs. There’s an article for that…

In the email program I use, PostBox (highly recommended), I can easily engage the BCc: field from a drop-down box to input email addresses. Although, to be honest, I don’t even remember the last time I did so.

However, for other software and web-based sites, do a quick search for BCc: in the help area or check your software provider’s online knowledge base, so you know where and how to use the BCc: on future group mailings.

Protecting your contact’s privacy is something those you communicate with will undoubtedly appreciate. Wherever BCc: may hide, find it and use it!

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