This blog post is intended for those prone to send e-mails containing confidential information; the rest of you can ignore this:
I recently received an e-mail with this thoughtful disclaimer/signature at the end:
“The information contained in this message is privileged and confidential information intended only for the use of the individual or entity named. If the reader of this message is not the intended recipient, you are hereby on notice that you are in possession of confidential and privileged information. Any dissemination, distribution or copying of this communication is strictly prohibited. You will immediately notify the sender of your inadvertent receipt and return the original message to the sender.”
This may come as a surprise, but there is no such thing as “confidential” e-mail. That would be like “confidentially” yelling at someone across the parking lot at Burger King, or sending a “confidential” postcard.
Furthermore, unless you have some kind of signed agreement with the recipient, any e-mail you send becomes the property of the recipient as soon as you push the Send button, and they can do whatever they like with it. If they want to post it on a website, if they want to forward it to all of your friends to make you look like a fool, or if they want to pay Janet Jackson to tattoo it on her breast and then whip it out on national television, then expect it to happen, and no cowardly-half-hearted-attempt-at-ass-covering-pseudo-disclaimer is likely stop it.
With this knowledge, we can now reinterpret the disclaimer to read:
“I am an idiot who truly does not understand that e-mail is an incredibly insecure format that flows through the hands of many, many people, each of whom could quite easily read my communications and use them to get me fired, arrested, or (at the very least) publicly humiliated. I am hoping that you are as stupid as I am, and that this “disclaimer” will trick you into believing that you have no right to “˜disseminate, distribute, or copy” this e-mail.”
Please send “privileged and confidential” information by registered mail, or perhaps via encrypted/encoded e-mail, and take any ridiculous disclaimers like this off of your e-mail signatures. Honestly! Next, I suppose you will want me to sign a waiver before speaking with you at the water cooler.