Ethical Multiple (non-SPAM) eMailing

For your consideration: The eMail message between the horizontal lines below also exists in a plain text version (formatted with 60-character line breaks to transfer easily into your mail program). After activating the link above, click and highlight the browser window contents from top to bottom, choose "Edit" and "Copy" to clone it to your clipboard, press your <Back button to return here, open a new eMail, position your cursor in the body, then select "Edit" and "Paste" (use the same method to copy a character graphic in this file to save trees on your next holiday mailing).

    I recently received the following letter, and since we're all concerned with privacy issues, I thought I'd pass it along. It sounds like a good technique for dealing with a pesky problem.


>>> Mon, __ Jan 2002 11:11 UTC - From: <> >>>


For some reason, several of my friends recently got the idea into their heads to send identical e-mails to many people at the same time. Multiple e-mailing among consenting adults seems to be a newly-discovered human need, ranking right up there with food, clothing and shelter, and I see nothing wrong with saving keystrokes and using one's mail program to do the heavy lifting.

However, the method by which these mass-mailings were accomplished scared the heck out of me. To avoid unnecessary anguish in the future, I composed this letter to send to all my friends.

If you've been around the 'net for a while, you've heard about a nasty thing called "SPAM" - supposedly named because the process is reminiscent of throwing luncheon meat into the spinning blades of a fan. It starts when some nefarious character decides to send out unsolicited, usually commercial, mail to all and sundry. S/he gets thousands of e-mail addresses, and fires off nuisance advertisements to all the unlucky targets. Sometimes things get out of hand, and those addresses get passed along to other advertisers, who... well, you get the picture. It's like a pyramid scheme or a chain letter - unwelcome, obnoxious, and sometimes frightening. It's not uncommon to hear stories of people who are forced to change their e-mail addresses because of the amount of unsolicited mail they receive. Believe me, it happens. Think of how you'd feel if you had 986 messages to download the next time you logged on, with 3 of them (which three?) containing important information from close friends.

So it's probably a good idea to protect your e-mail address, and disclose it only to people you know and/or trust. Additionally, I think we'd all like to feel that our friends respect our privacy rights, and safeguard the address which we've entrusted to them - hence this letter.

If you commit a serious netiquette (and ethical) breach by entering multiple addresses in your mail program's "To:" field, everyone who receives the message can see all the e-mail addresses. Suppose ONE of those people has a small widget business on the side, and s/he decides that these addresses would be lovely places to send information on the new, improved widget. After all, who doesn't love a nice widget?! Soon, the addresses get compiled into a larger list, and TWO of those recipients have widget-lubricating businesses on the side. Later, there are FOUR widget-overhaul folks, and the next thing you know, we're all up to our butts in smooth-running, freshly-lubricated widgets.

Anyway, not to belabor the point (maybe it's too late already): if you feel you must send e-mails to multiple recipients, put their addresses in the "Bcc:" field, and put your own address in the "To:" field. With this method, nobody receives any other addresses, and no-one's privacy is compromised. If you want to make sure all YOUR friends know about this technique, simply click the Forward button in your mail program, delete any references to my name or e-mail address that show up in the editing window, put their addresses in the "Bcc:" field (each separated by a comma), type your own address in the "To:" field, and make sure to turn off any automatic signature file you may have. With any luck, this message will be spread all over the 'net by next Tuesday. Just don't send it back to me. Please.

Safe surfly... xxx

P.S. My friends have had no trouble with this technique of secure multiple e-mailing, but I'm aware that some mail programs don't have a "Bcc:" field (you can change programs, or Internet Service Providers, if necessary). Even if a Bcc exists (it's often an option, under "View"), there's a slight chance it might not operate as expected - some Bcc's are not "Blind", and act more like regular "carbon copies". A small number of cases depend upon how the sender's mail program interacts with the recipient's... Before mailing this out to your entire list, test the method with two friends who know each other, and ask if either can see the other's address.

This technique is not meant to be used with chain letters, or for commercial purposes. It's intended for senders who: personally know their recipients, need to send out multiple e-mails, and wish to avoid the unethical breach of privacy committed by a disclosure of e-mail addresses.

Electronically yours... xxx


SPAM: Unsolicited commercial eMails are inexcusable - the sender risks a retaliatory letter-bombing, or being reported to their ISP postmaster (and losing their Internet account). If you receive a steamy slab o' SPAM, use the technique at the top of this page to copy the entire message, including the full header (it may be under View, Document Source - they often try to "spoof", or hide, the host server's address there) and forward everything to,,,,,,,,,, and, where "" is the sender's domain name. Request that the offender's account be revoked, for eMail harassment - I've helped put at least 30 SPAMmers out of business with the method above (consider this: if a small percentage of us responded to SPAM in a pro-active manner, it would cease to be a problem). Sometimes Yahoo's selection of anonymous mailers, including Replay's browser-driven remailer in Amsterdam, can be of use.

Messages in an eMail queue have a much more personal, immediate impact than letters in a P.O. box or even at a snail mail home address, but junk eMailers commit robbery, by stealing the recipient's download time (and money, for connect charges). If you wish to engage in business on the 'net, put up a website for your venture, and promote it with the search engines, or buy advertisements from established services. As many folks have discovered, if you attempt to directly approach people electronically with your commercial message, you may stir up an ugly reaction. You will have asked for (and deserve) all the abuse which comes your way!

VIRUS HOAXES: A computer virus cannot be spread by simply opening your eMail - it must be executed (viruses are sometimes found as attachments to eMail messages, but again, you must take the extra step of executing the virus file in order to do any harm). The next time you receive a warning about a bogus eMail virus, use the technique at the top of this page to copy a debunking message into your reply, and stop the hoax. Stupid E-mail Tricks is an absorbing case study about tracking down an incident of address forgery (or "spoofing"). Further info: CIAC Internet Hoaxes.

It's not just for breakfast anymore...
Right on!

© Alan C. Baird · Top of Page · interholics Anonymous