E-mail disclaimers

What’s with all the e-mail footers I’m seeing lately containing vaguely legal-sounding language about the intended recipient of the message and how the contents of the message may or may not be used?

This message is intended only for the exclusive use of the intended recipient(s) named herein and may contain information that is PRIVILEGED and/or CONFIDENTIAL. If you are not the intended recipient, you are hereby notified that any use, dissemination, disclosure or copying of this communication is strictly prohibited. If you have received this communication in error, please destroy all copies of this message and its attachments and notify us immediately.

Oops, I just copied and disseminated part of the communication in question. My bad.

I’ve seen some that go so far as to expressly forbid you from even reading the e-mail if you’re not the intended recipient, ignoring the fact that by the time you get to the footer, you’ve already read the entire thing. This practice really seems to be spreading; a good percentage of the mail I read over the course of a work day — I don’t know how many, but it’s a lot — have something similar to this at the bottom. Well over 50% if I exclude the mail from non-businesses. I can’t imagine all these people coming up with this independently; I assume that some management type somewhere read one and demanded that their office have something like that too. And so on, and so on…

The real question is, do people think that this type of thing has any teeth at all? I can’t wait to hear about the first lawsuit over someone forwarding one of these PRIVILEGED and/or CONFIDENTIAL e-mails. If I ever get one of these sent to me personally I’m going to make a point of posting the entire e-mail on my web site.


hepkitten says:

iirc it actually started with lawyers. The law office where my mother works has had it on their mail since like 1999

kchrist says:

You’d think lawyers would know better. Or maybe they were counting on other people not knowing better.

hepkitten says:

this is true. I would say at least 70% of legal manuavering by lawyers is them depending on the person they are against not knowing about whatever it is they are doing. For instance, if you file for a restraining order and the judge doesn’t sign it, you can have it served anyway and just hope the other person won’t know that the judge didn’t sign it. It’s an intimidation tactic, many lawyers/legal threats depend on people being scared off by legalese. Of course the flip side of this is Internet Lawsuiting. :)