The Haunting Memory of the “Email Trail”…

Email TrailDid you ever send an email that you regretted sending? The second you click that “SEND” button, it vaporizes into never never land, you cannot get it back and it can remain there indefinitely. Yes, indefinitely!  Always remember what you write (or put your name to) another person reads and interprets. There is no inflection or tone in email. The interpretation can be misconstrued and can be damaging to your reputation. It can come back to haunt you! Email may feel private; but it is anything but. Email leaves a trail and can remain on servers and people’s computers for a lifetime. To help prevent from being haunted by your email, here are some tips to follow…

  1. Setup 2-(two) separate email accounts at home. Use your main email account given to you by your ISP for your personal and private (important) use only. Set up a second email account with a web based service (such as Hotmail, GMail, Yahoo).  Use the second web based account for online ordering, the joke circuit with friends, or researching a personal subject. The junk mail that inevitably arrives, as result of these activities, won’t clutter your main ISP email account.  By creating these (2)-two accounts, you are separating what is important from what is not important. 
  2. Avoid placing the recipient’s email address in the “TO” field until you have completed the content of your email. This will eliminate the possibility of accidentally sending the email, prior to completion.
  3. Avoid lengthy emails… Keep email content short and to the point. Shape the content of your email so that it easily understood. Most people do not have the time or desire to read lengthy emails; plus composing lengthy emails increases the risk for grammar and spelling errors. Believe it or not, your credibility will be judged by the way to write, spell, etc… Always read back the content of your email, prior to sending. 
  4. Avoid composing emails in uppercase. Uppercase is taken to mean that you are yelling.  GET IT!
  5. Avoid sending personal and private identity information (e.g. credit card, account passwords, etc.). This information can be intercepted.
  6. Avoid sending emails that contain attachments that are large in file size (i.e. videos, numerous photos, etc.). Remember the recipient has to download those attachments; and if the recipient is on dial-up, this can be a nightmare.
  7. Avoid sending/forwarding chain letter emails… Each time you forward that chain letter your email address goes with it (everywhere, even around the world). Chain emails are a form of spam and can even cause spam to be generated.
  8. Avoid emails that contain any sexual, racial, or political overtones. All I can say is you better know your reader(s); because people can be easily offended by these emails. They also can cause credibility issues, as well as, embarrassment.  I have seen people print out these types of emails, with the email addresses still intact.
  9. Avoid sending inappropriate emails from work… Just because you are using your personal web based email at work (e.g. Hotmail, GMail, Yahoo, etc.) to send that joke or video you can still get caught (and lose your job). 
  10. Avoid email sniping wars… Do not use email to express anger. If you receive an email that is offensive, I suggest closing the email and seeking another method of communication to deal with the issue.  Emails of this type can be used against you in matters of litigation.
  11. Avoid using email for sensitive communication (e.g. employee performance, gossiping, medical conditions, handling problems etc.). I highly recommend that you seek an alternative method of communication (e.g. face-to-face, telephone).  If you find a need to deliver an email that is sensitive in nature, I suggest you wait a day before sending.  This gives you time to think about the matter.  We often change our minds when dealing with matters that are sensitive in nature. 
  12. ADDED on 12/21/2008 – A reader of the blog pointed out that when sending emails (especially to multiple recipients), to use the BCC (blind carbon copy field) to insert the email addresses. BCC, which stands for blind carbon copy, allows you to hide recipients in email messages. Unlike addresses in the To: field or the CC: (carbon copy) field, addresses in the BCC: field cannot be seen by other users.

“Remember, Email Leaves A Trail”

ADDENDUM (January 9, 2009):  Following this post, Mike at Carputer’s News and Computer Tips  submitted the following links from the Virginia Family Law Blog on security and email (and the web in general) from a legal perspective. This is very good information and reaffirms points in this article how “The Haunting Memory of the Email Trail” and other types of computer usage can come back around to haunt you!

Maintaining your privacy: Eliot Spitzer knew all this and more

The evidence people assemble against themselves

Improving Confidentiality (Family Law News article)

 

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8 thoughts on “The Haunting Memory of the “Email Trail”…

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  1. Your advice is also applicable to text messaging. In Philippines, fights,attempted murders, and homicides were commited because of indiscriminate messages spied upon.

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    1. pochp,

      Thank you for your comment. I never thought about “text messaging”. That may make for another article. I’m sorry that these type of things happen over words. Please visit again! Rick

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  2. Great article!

    Fot those of your readers who are not as cautious as they need to be (as your excellent advice points out), there are email services that provide services that include self-destructing emails.

    For example, I recently came across a site “http://thinkabdul.com/2007/07/25/ten-free-services-to-send-self-destructing-emails-which-expiredisappear-automatically-after-specified-time-interval/”, sorry about the long URL, that provides info on 10 of these special email services.

    I’m not recommending to your readers that they use self-destructing emails, instead, they would be wise to follow the advice you have so clearly set out in your article.

    Bill Mullins

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  3. Bill,

    Thank you for your advice and the URL that lists the services that provide “self destructing emails”… I will be checking these out. I may do a future article on this concept.

    Merry Christmas

    Rick

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  4. Mike,

    Thank you for this “excellent” information… I have added an addendum to this post and also did an update with this information (as a separate post) with recognizing your site for providing the information.

    Again, great info!

    Rick

    Like

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