Using Blind Carbon Copy (BCC) For Email Privacy

Robin Henry
 


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Need for Privacy

People have become hypersensitive about their privacy during the last few years. They now expect that their details will be used only for the purposes for which they have been provided and not shared by original trustees. This is especially true of email addresses because of the huge volume of unsolicited commercial email (spam) circulating the web.

In Australia and elsewhere, there are statutes requiring privacy when collecting and using personal information. (In Australia the Privacy Act (Commonwealth) was recently amended to include private sector use of personal information eg, medical records retained by private practices).

In an increasingly litigious society, there are not only sound business reasons, but legal reasons why you should ensure the strictest standards of privacy are applied to personal information of which you are custodian. Despite this, numbers of people using email unwittingly reveal the email addresses of other people to whom they are sending email.

This article tells you how to maintain client confidentiality when sending email to multiple addressees by using Blind Carbon Copy or BCC.

Blind Carbon Copy

The term Blind Carbon Copy is a hangover from the dim, dark ages before word processors when we used typewriters (some of you have probably never seen a typewriter). To produce multiple copies of a document, one had to place a sheet of carbon paper between sheets of plain paper so that the type key impact on the top sheet would be copied to the second sheet (and any subsequent sheets).

It was a somewhat messy, but proficient process. When one wanted to send an original letter to one person and copies to several other people without showing each recipient who the other recipients were, a BCC annotation was made on the original. Each copy displayed only the name and address of the individual recipient, but the BCC notation on the original showed to whom the copies had been mailed. A BCC looked like this: Bcc: Mr Tom Jones, 14 Weaving Court, East Melbourne VIC 3000

Some email programs allow you to enter email addresses into the BCC field and send them. When you do that each recipient receives your message, but the names of other recipients are not displayed.

That is why they are called ‘blind’ – they are not seen.

By using the BCC feature you preserve the identities of those who are on your mailing list and ensure that anyone receiving your email cannot email your list or harvest their email addresses and sell them.

Your Email Program

When you obtain an email program, make sure it has a ‘Blind Carbon Copy (BCC)’ feature. Programs such as Outlook Express and Outlook 200? have BCC capability. Although I have never used it, I'd be surprised if Eudora and other common email programs didn't have it too.

If when you click to send a new email your email client displays only the To … and Cc … boxes it may be that the Bcc feature IS available, but is simply not displayed. Try the View menu or Help menu to see if you can find a Bcc option.

If your email program has a BCC option that you can select as a permanently visible option, select it. If it doesn't, you may need to think about getting a new program.

How to Use BCC

When you send email messages to multiple addressees and you do not want each addressee to know who else has received a copy, use the Blind Carbon Copy field.

Simply enter all the addresses in the BCC field separated by a semi-colon, comma, or whatever your program uses. When you click the send button, your email will go to each individual with only his or her name in the To field. None of the recipients knows to who else the email has been sent.

Outlook 200? will allow you to send BCC addressed email without an address in the To field. Other email clients require at least one address in the To field before they allow multiple recipient addresses in the BCC field. Test the program you use to see if it needs to have an addressee in the To field. If so, address it to yourself. (Surprisingly, email programs usually allow us to email ourselves . . . that's why I receive so many emails from Jennifer Lopez (just joking).

If you need to make an entry in the To field, place your own email address in that field and everyone else’s address in the BCC field.

Disadvantages

What you need to know about BCC is that some spam filters automatically delete email addressed in the BCC field so it never reaches its destination. This means that while sending BCC is okay for privacy, your email might not always reach the intended recipients.

A problem I had with Outlook Express 2002 was that if I sent my email using BCC I couldn't print a hard copy of the sent message with the addresses on it. I had to write address details on my file copies for record keeping purposes.

If sending BCC email is likely to be impractical for you, then you need to consider upgrading your email client from the standard run-of-the-mill version to a professional version. That's what I did.

Email Management Programs

If, like me, you distribute large quantities of email regularly to newsletter subscribers, clients, club members, colleagues or anyone else, you will be better off getting a program designed for high volume mailings.

I use and sell a heavy duty bulk email program that lets me do simply, many tasks not easy to achieve with standard email clients like Outlook 2002. For example, the program I use will allow me to:

  1. Automatically record subscriptions to my newsletter
  2. Personalise each email with a recipient's name or any other information I choose to include eg, place of residence
  3. Send as HTML or plain text with or without attachments
  4. Do a partial send to my distribution list eg, if I wanted to email everyone in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, clients 64-73 of 3,000 or all persons whose title is Ms I can do it

By having a separate program for bulk emailing, I overcome the problems involved with privacy and reduce the likelihood that my messages will be eliminated by overzealous spam engines.

If you rely on email to carry out business activities (and who doesn't?), it may be time to consider how well your email strategy meets the needs of your business in today's security conscious society.

Copyright Robin Henry 2005

Robin Henry is an educator, human resources specialist and Internet marketer whose firm, Desert Wave Enterprises, helps individuals and businesses improve their performance by using smart processes, smart technology and personal development. He lives at Alice Springs In Central Australia. Visit Desert Wave Enterprises to read more about this topic.

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