"This Email is not for you"

I hate getting emails with a signature similar to this one:

The information contained in this email and any attachments is confidential and may be subject to copyright or other intellectual property protection. If you are not the intended recipient, you are not authorized to use or disclose this information, and we request that you notify us by reply mail or telephone and delete the original message from your mail system.

Another good example is:

This e-mail and any attachments are confidential. If you receive this message in error or are not the intended recipient, you should not retain, distribute, disclose or use any of this information and you should destroy the e-mail and any attachments or copies.

Although I admit that these particular examples are tame compared to

This email message and any files transmitted with it may contain PRIVILEGED AND/OR CONFIDENTIAL INFORMATION INTENDED FOR THE USE OF THE ADDRESSEE. If you are not the addressee you may not copy or forward the message or any file with it. If you have received this message in error, or you have not received it properly, PLEASE NOTIFY THE SENDER IMMEDIATELY BY CALLING (770) 813-0882 or by sending a message to:

And this one I’ve received is the grand prize winner

This e-mail may contain confidential and/or privileged information. If you are not the intended recipient (or have received this e-mail in error) please notify the sender immediately and destroy this e-mail and any attachments. Any unauthorised copying, disclosure or distribution of the material in this e-mail and any attachments is strictly forbidden. The views expressed in this email are not necessarily the views of Microvision, and the company, its directors, officers or employees make no representation or accept any liability for its accuracy or completeness unless expressly stated to the contrary. This e-mail and any attachments have been scanned for viruses by ***** but ***** will not be liable for direct, special, indirect or consequential damages arising from alteration of the contents of this message by a third party or as a result of any virus being passed on.

I don’t get email from lawyers so I can’t say if theirs is better or not.

What bugs me about all this crap is several points: One, it’s ridiculous, and you can’t force me to forget something that you personally screwed up. If I go out into the city square and shout out my bank account and routing number, that’s my own damn fault and appending a nicely worded disclaimer isn’t going to make it “didn’t happen”. Two, email in an open format—and I’ve never received an encrypted email, EVER—is subject to being read by third parties. That’s a fact, so deal with it and don’t send important information over unsecure media. Three, this crap is meaningless as soon as it passes over international borders into some country that does not have the same laws we Americanians do. Four…it’s ridiculous and it eats up bandwidth.

This could all be solved if people ensured the security of their important emails. I mentioned earlier that I’ve never received an encrypted email. That’s not entirely true. I have received plenty of emails that are digitally signed. Unfortunately, a digital signature doesn’t mean no one can read it besides the recipient, it only means that once I’ve read your very-important-email-containing-vast-world-secrets, I know that it came from you and not someone else. Of course, I have no process by which to verify the digital signature and check to make sure it’s yours. Plenty of digital signatures are slapped on there by random programs like MS Word which is vulnerable to third party attacks (Check out all the wikipedia articles about email encryption for info about digital signatures and secure email transactions). I’ll be the first person on board if anyone wants to exchange keys and start sending encrypted emails back and forth. From a paranoid, long-term point of view, I think it makes great sense to start sending encrypted traffic out the door long before you actually need to do it. That way, if anyone is investigating, they won’t wonder why you’re suddenly encrypting your data stream.

Suffice to say that these signatures are stupid and I don’t look forward to the day when I have to fight with a corporate lawyer in order to not include one on my own email.

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Alan Williamson blogs about and cites another dude concerning this topic.

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One Response to "This Email is not for you"

  1. James Cronen says:

    Cory Doctorow has been pioneering his Reasonable Agreement, which he appends to the end of his messages as a sort of anti-EULA:

    READ CAREFULLY. By reading this e-mail you agree, on behalf of your employer, to release me from all obligations and waivers arising from any and all NON-NEGOTIATED agreements, licenses, terms-of-service, shrinkwrap, clickwrap, browsewrap, confidentiality, non-disclosure, non-compete and acceptable use policies (”BOGUS AGREEMENTS”) that I have entered into with your employer, its partners, licensors, agents and assigns, in perpetuity, without prejudice to my ongoing rights and privileges. You further represent that you have the authority to release me from any BOGUS AGREEMENTS on behalf of your employer.

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