Ray Tomlinson invented email in 1972. Tomlinson was an ARPANET contractor and picked the @ symbol to reference digital communications between computers.
Since then, things have changed — just a wee bit.
In a perfect world, organizations use email to share quick bursts of info with clients, colleagues, constituents, etc.
But, in the real world, people send massive files, keep enormous inboxes, all while sending the most confidential voter, medical and financial info. Designed as a communicative tool for nonsensitive info, people are now using email as the send-all-be-all of their organizations.
If you don’t archive your emails and use a file structure (outside of your inbox) think about giving that some time. Digital organization is greatness.
Over the years, I’ve come across a few situations where people have emailed me some very sensitive info by mistake.
So, as a best practices rule-of-thumb, if you can’t say it aloud, don’t email it.
One client was considering an alternative to our company and sent our proposal to a competitor, asking the other company to break down our proposal and beat our price. They accidentally cc’ed me.
In my eyes, their brand is forever tarnished. An hour later, when I received a request to ignore the previous email, I couldn’t help but laugh. It was like a court order to “strike that comment from the record” — the cat is already out of the bag, and said cat holds a major grudge.
Recently, my wife was trying to get her air conditioning fixed at a local car shop; they were refusing to honor the warranty.
They then sent this gem to 6 internal staff, cc’ing me by mistake. There was nothing up, no one even looked at the car beside them. Now, whenever I think of auto repair, I see them as the clowns of the business. I always will.
Had they not sent this email, I would have been none the wiser. One person ruined their national brand. (I bet they got an A in clown school.)
We will not name names here, but here is part of the message:
“Paul Harvey version was the washer bottle is broken! How does a washer bottle get broken, and AC system over charged ???? We were asking questions since vehicle has not ever been in our stores for repairs or service. Car fax was clean so we are fixing the vehicle under warranty since we cannot prove anything and the Dowling’s are giving us any information other than being very defensive which usually in my book means something up.”
The Democratic National Committee learned the power of email — the wrong way.
Jobs were lost, trust destroyed. In the aftermath of the Nevada Democratic convention, Debbie Wasserman Schultz wrote about Jeff Weaver, Bernie Sanders’ campaign manager: “Damn liar. Particularly scummy that he barely acknowledges the violent and threatening behavior that occurred.”
In another email, Wasserman Schultz said of Sanders: “He isn’t going to be president.”
Other emails had her stating that Sanders doesn’t understand the Democratic Party. Bernie got hosed. Email pain is not just for Democrats, Republicans past and present have had their fair share of problems.
Email woes have no party affiliation.
There should be an email protocol — in writing — for all your staffers, including interns, volunteers, and all the way to the top.
We don’t need to go into mail servers (or things like that); email is simply not a secure platform for communication.
Don’t talk trash, send credit card numbers, Social Security numbers or anything confidential via email. Yes, there are encryption packages available to secure email communication, if you are willing to make the investment.
Nevertheless, use email as designed, and you will have a pleasant and (most importantly) more secure computing experience.
Be safe out there.
Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.