Some Realities

There are some common misconceptions regarding e-mail sent through 'normal' channels. Here are some of the most common ones.

  • Emails can be deleted. Reality: By using utilities or by checking recipients' workstations, they can very often be recovered. Most messages are also archived by ISPs.
  • Emails get "lost" among the millions being sent around the Internet. Reality: Sophisticated search tools, such as the FBI's Carnivore program, let their users find almost any email sent through 'normal' means.
  • Emails go to the people you address them to. Reality: Emails are often distributed broadly to people you might not even know because of forwarding.
  • Comments made in email aren't that powerful. Reality: Even if unintended by the author, certain comments or idle remarks can be perceived as threats or harassment. For example, referring to a coworker as a "dinosaur" can become the basis for an age discrimination lawsuit.
  • You can send emails from work in a personal capacity. Reality: When sent over company systems, the law recognizes emails as official company communications regardless of the content. Potential exposure is created each time an employee uses corporate email to send personal messages to friends.
  • Private email messages are private. Reality: Emails can be accessed as part of an investigation and create liability for individuals and businesses.
  • Your identity is protected through email communications. Reality: Using normal email, it is extremely easy to duplicate someone's identity for the purpose of sending fraudulent email messages, and equally easy for authorities to determine your identity.