Confidentiality in Email

Over the past few years, I’ve noticed more and more companies have been adding confidentiality notices to the bottom of emails. Lately, I’ve been wondering why. I mean, just what is the purpose of these notices? Are they legally binding? Do companies really believe that people will do what the notice asks? What will they do if they don’t? If not, why do they bother?

So let’s dissect an average message:
Confidentiality: This e-mail message, including any attachments, is for the sole use of the intended recipient(s)

Well if it’s sitting in my email inbox, then obviously I’m an intended recipient right? Why am I responsible for making a determination regarding what you intended? If you can’t be trusted to properly address an email, why are you trusting a potentially complete stranger to make an accurate determination on your (obviously flawed) mental state?

and may contain confidential and privileged information.

Again, how would I know what is confidential and privileged? Don’t you by the act of emailing this information to a complete stranger make the information not very confidential or privileged?

Any unauthorized review, use, disclosure or distribution is prohibited.

Oooohhhhh!!! Now you’re scaring me! PROHIBITED!!! Oh wait.. just what are you going to do if I forward this on to the Wall Street Journal? Tell my mom? Also, wouldn’t I have to “review” the contents to make an accurate determination of the nature of the content? If you can’t prohibit your own employee from distributing your confidential information, what makes you think you can stop me?

If you are not the intended recipient, please contact the sender by reply e-mail and destroy all copies of the original message.

“Please” is such a nice word, but it’s hardly a forceful requirement. Also what am I supposed to tell the sender? That they’re an idiot for sending me some super secret document detailing their plan for dominating the world’s supply of organic skunk scented candles?

Thank you.

Well at least you’re polite about it.

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