We all got a note from Paul the CFO, who's a bright and reasonable kind of person, telling us we should put one of those privacy disclaimers at the bottom of outgoing emails. This struck me as a ridiculous idea, so I pushed back a bit, and learned why these things exist.

Paul said that the pressure came from the insurance company that provides our normal corporate coverage; they are worried about the scenario where an email from us with something sensitive in it gets passed along to the wrong third party; we want to reduce our liability.

While I'm not a lawyer, this seemed pretty shaky to me. I mean, if I send you something secret and you screw up and pass it on to the wrong person, and damage ensues, I may well decide to sue your ass even if you do have some boilerplate legalese at the bottom of your email.

I seriously wonder if there's any case-law on this. if the disclaimer isn't actually useful, you have to roll your eyes at the resulting wasteage. When you consider the number of emails shooting back and forth every day with this little bundle of unlovely language at the bottom, it probably adds up to terabytes of relatively-useless content.

Paul granted my point, then said “But, the insurance company requires that we do this in order for them to provide coverage.” I don't have a come-back to that. So, from here on in, if you get an email from me in my professional capacity, it will have the following 587 characters at the bottom. If the email was a one-liner like “Confirmed phone call 4/18 13:30; I'll call you” the signal-to-noise ratio is getting pretty ugly. Oh well, bandwidth is cheap I guess.

Regards, Tim Bray, CTO/Founder
         +1-604-873-6100 x101 [o], +1-604-XXX-XXXX [m]
         Antarctica Systems Inc. http://antarctica.net
         "Results you can see"
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author · Dad · software · colophon · rights
picture of the day
April 08, 2003
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