What gives with the proliferation of email confidentiality notices?

This email is intended only for the use of the individual or entity to which it is addressed and may contain information that is privileged and confidential. If the reader of this email message is not the intended recipient, you are hereby notified that any dissemination, distribution, or copying of this communication is prohibited. If you have received this email in error, please notify the sender and delete all copies of the transmittal. Thank you.

This from a state employee, to boot. Do the folks who write these think it’s still 1738? Or are they the same lawyers who gave us the “You have no rights” license agreements? I much prefer this one for its honesty.

So, let’s write our own email EULAs:

  1. AGREEMENT. 1. This is a legally binding contract between the Reader and the Writer. 2. The Reader agrees to pay the Writer $42,000,000.00 million dollars in Swiss Francs. 3. Now!
  2. This email is about to explode. EVERYBODY PANIC!!!!!
  3. ANTI-CONFIDENTIALITY NOTICE: This email was written by an employee of the State of Illinois in the course of normal business, and may be subject to disclosure as per public records and open meetings laws. Exceptions for students, of course. If you expect this email to be confidential, I would like to speak with you regarding an excellent business opportunity. I don’t use PGP, so why the &#(@! would I expect this email to be confidential, anyway?
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4 Responses to CONFIDENTIAL!!!!!!1

  1. Jeff Watkins says:

    I always figure that if I want something to be confidential I should whisper it in your ear. Course, your ear is probably all hairy and full of earwax. But the principle is sound…

    At Apple, we’re not permitted to put genuinely confidential stuff in the text of an email. It gets attached as an encrypted disk image. Then in a separate email which should bear no resemblence to the first, you can send the password.

  2. cbd says:

    Ahem. While my ears may not be as smooth as a baby’s bottom, they are clean, thank you very much.

    Funny you mention the disk image; I just got introduced to .sparseimage this week, when a colleague’s iMac locked up, corrupting her FileVault-encrypted home directory. “You can not sign on as the user X at this time.” Oops. At least she had most of her data backed up.

  3. tengrrl says:

    You silly thing. You made me giggle. 🙂

  4. Anne says:

    Look, Most Honorable Nerd: some of us are sorta kinda required to have them because disclosure to 3rd parties (intended or otherwise) can knock a hole in the what-was-an hermetically sealed attorney-client privilege. Once there is a fissure in that privilege, it can be pried open by someone who is mean. The aforesaid notwithstanding, I don’t think they do much good. Truth be told (and I am bound by honor and habit to do no less), the ability of others (not the recipients) to spy on e-mails (esp. the good folks at Google who let me use gmail so they can spy on me) calls into question the confidentiality of such e-mails, even with the fancy disclaimer.

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