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Email Security Tip - Forward Responsibly
Along with the junk mail that arrives in our inboxes, there may be quite a few gems that just beg
to be forwarded. These may be jokes, funny photos or videos, useful information, interesting web links or just juicy bits of gossip. The "forward" function of our email program enables us to fire off these missives to one, a few, or all of the email addresses in our address book with just a few mouse clicks. As easy as pie!
In fact, email forwarding is almost too easy! While the ability to forward messages is a very valuable aid to effective email communication, the forward function should be used responsibly. Before you forward an email to multiple recipients, there are important factors that need to be considered:
- Willingness to receive:
There is a fundamental question that is very frequently overlooked by the forwarding fraternity. The question is, "Does the recipient actually want to be sent all these forwarded emails?"
If you are on a slow dial-up Internet connection, it can be very irritating to continually receive large emails that take a considerable time to download. Furthermore, your recipient's opinions about what is funny, intriguing, or important might diverge rather sharply from your own.
More importantly, the recipient might be rightly concerned about the privacy and security risks inherent in multiple forwarded emails (see below).
In short, if you forward a lot of emails to a lot of people, it is simply good etiquette to give your recipients the chance to "opt out" of future mailings. In other words, take the time to ask the recipient if he or she wants to receive your forwarded emails. The truth is that some of your recipients may prefer that you did not forward emails to them, but are too polite to tell you.
- Privacy and Security:
If you forward an email to multiple recipients in the normal way, recipients will be able to easily view each other's email addresses. The email is likely to be forwarded many more times and it will carry an expanding list of email addresses along with it, including those of your friends and family. Some of your recipients may not appreciate the fact that their private email address has been clearly revealed to dozens or hundreds of total strangers.
Ultimately, this list of email addresses may well find its way into the hands of spammers who will send you and other people on the list irritating and intrusive junk email.
I go to a lot of trouble to protect my private email address from spammers, so I do tend to get irritated when I am forwarded an email and realize that my email address has been blasted across cyberspace to dozens of strangers without my permission and its continued transmission is totally beyond my control.
Luckily, there are a couple of very easy steps you can take
to protect the privacy of your recipients and help to reduce spam.
Firstly, be sure to remove any previous email addresses displayed in a message before you forward it. Secondly, be sure to use the Blind Carbon Copy (BCC) function of your email program when forwarding a message to multiple recipients.
- Protecting your own email address:
Even if you do remove previous email addresses and use BCC,
you need to be aware that your private email address might well end up being sent onward and displayed in email inboxes across the planet. Once you click the "Send" button, you have very little control over where or to whom your email address is subsequently displayed. However, you can reduce the risk by asking your recipients to remove your email address before forwarding. You could also use a throwaway email account just for forwarding purposes.
Many users are simply not aware of the privacy and security issues connected to forwarding emails. You can take an active role in helping to protect user privacy and reducing spam by making others aware of these issues.
Write-up by Brett M.Christensen