Monday, October 20, 2008

Have you ever sent email to the wrong person?

The death by email search string at the very bottom of the 100 Google searches list directed me to the topic review that immediately captured my interest. Indeed, is there a way to retrieve back an email sent by mistake? Let it be the method to do that!!!! Pleaseeeee!


Harm from Misdirected Email

Nancy Dunetz, who teaches English as a second language in New York City, sat down in the school staff room to check her e-mail. One of the messages in her inbox was from an acquaintance she’d been corresponding with since their 50th high school reunion last year.

But this e-mail last June didn’t contain chummy banter or reminiscences. It simply included a lewd photo of a partly unclothed young man. The file name of the picture was "Mid East Hottie."

"I was shocked!" says Dunetz, 68. She hastily closed the e-mail and tried to erase the image from her mind.

Later that day, the sender e-mailed an apology to her and two dozen others who had received the e-mail. He explained he’d been experimenting with his new computer and was trying to figure out how to add attachments to an e-mail, Dunetz says. In doing so, he attached an image from his desktop and tried to send it to himself. Instead, the e-mail program automatically filled in an entire group from his address book -- something he apparently didn’t realize until after he hit the "send" button.

"I felt terrible for him," Dunetz says. "I could imagine just how mortified he must have been."

With some 55 billion e-mails being sent daily (not including spam), according to e-mail archiving company The Radicati Group, misdirected e-mails have become the online equivalent of a wrong number. They’re unavoidable, annoying -- and often embarrassing.

The ’uh-oh’ e-mail

In a recent online survey conducted by AOL, 32 percent of the 4,000 respondents have at one time or another mistakenly forwarded an e-mail to an unintended recipient. And often, it’s something not so nice.

Karla Comer, an account executive at an ad agency in Greensboro, North Carolina, knows just how embarrassing that can be. In 2004, Comer met a guy at a concert and went out with him a few times, but ultimately realized she wasn’t interested. "He was just awkward and clumsy. And sometimes I’d catch him staring at me, which really creeped me out," she says.

She tried to end the relationship by simply not returning his phone calls. "But then he e-mailed and causally said that he had not heard from me in a while and he hoped everything was fine but just assumed I was busy," says Comer, 31.

"Before I returned his e-mail, I sent the message to a close girlfriend with a blurb about what an idiot I thought he was and that dating him was a bad idea because he had no understanding of social cues."

She thought she sent the "he’s an idiot" e-mail only to her girlfriend.

To her horror, Comer says, the spurned beau replied a few minutes later, calling her some not-so-sweet names and suggesting that she "share THIS e-mail with your friends." "I was speechless," says Comer, who chose to not respond. "But eventually I was able to laugh at it."

When errant e-mails are sent at work, however, there’s often much more at stake than personal. Three years ago, Jamie Diamond, 33, e-mailed his then-boss to ask about a client at the public relations firm where he was working. His boss wrote back, criticizing the client as incompetent and urging Diamond to "go around him if you want to get anything done." , Diamond says, she also sent the e-mail to the client -- oops, make that ex-client.

"One click, and suddenly we’d lost a $5 million account," says Diamond, who is now self-employed as a publicist in Williams, Oregon.

Legal Protection

As you saw, if in some cases, forwarding email message to the wrong person can have unpleasant and confusing consequences, there are cases, when accidental release of the classified information might be disastrous. Law firms are trying to minimize the potential risks by adding the disclaimer to the bottom of every electronic message, something like:

This e-mail (including any attachments) is protected by the United States Electronic Communications Privacy Act, 18 U.S.C. §§2510-2521 and is confidential and may be legally privileged. It is intended solely for the addressee. All emails sent by me remain my property. You must obtain written permission to forward in part or whole any message, data contained within, MX and other header information. Doing so without my written permission constitutes an agreement between me, you and the party you forwarded the information to pay me a sum of no less than $5000. This is a legally enforceable contract between me, you, and the party to whom you forwarded the information. If you are not the intended recipient, you are hereby notified that any dissemination, distribution, copying, reproduction, modification, or publication of this communication is illegal and prohibited by law. If you are not the intended recipient, you are hereby notified that any dissemination, distribution, copying, reproduction, modification, or publication of this communication is illegal and prohibited by law. Please delete the message from your computer and destroy any copies. This message is not intended to be relied upon by any person without subsequent written confirmation of its contents. The sender therefore disclaims all responsibility and accepts no liability of any kind that may arise from any person acting, or refraining from acting, upon the contents of the message without having had subsequent written confirmation. If you have received this e-mail in error, please notify the sender immediately by return e-mail and delete all copies of this message and any attachments. Thank you. 

But that hardly can reverse the negative consequences of the information release.

Can you turn back time?

Short of erasing someone’s memory, there is no surefire way to retrieve a missent e-mail. Microsoft Outlook has a "recall" function that can erase unread e-mails from the in-box of the recipient -- as long as the recipient is using the same mail client or server as the sender -- as does AOL, but only for messages between AOL users. (Both AOL and CNN are divisions of Time Warner.)

Also, if you’re lucky enough to be on a closed (controlled access) e-mail system at a company or an institution-specifically, one that uses Microsoft Outlook for its mail server-it’s possible to actually recall an e-mail message, as long as it hasn’t been opened. To do that, follow these instructions. But remember: This probably won’t work from your home computer.

* Select View, and then select Folder List.
* Click Sent Items.
* Open the message you want to recall.
* On the Actions menu, click Recall This Message.
* To actually recall the message, click Delete Unread Copies of This Message.
* Click OK. Outlook will attempt to recall the message.

There’s also, an e-mail service which lets you tinker with (or even erase) messages that have already been sent by having the sender write e-mails that are created, stored and viewed on a remote server, where they can be edited or revoked at any time; recipients are actually accessing the e-mail on the remote server when they read the message, even though it looks like a regular e-mail.

But old-fashioned vigilance is probably the best way to avert these snafus in the first place. Roger Matus, CEO of e-mail archiving company InBoxer Inc. and keeper of the blog Death By Email, believes the easiest way to avoid these mistakes is to forget that the "reply all" button even exists. "Simply put, there is rarely a real reason to use it," he says. "Often, when you hit it, you end up e-mailing people who were blind carbon copied without realizing."

Matus offers the following tips on avoiding e-mail embarrassment:

* Type out the person’s full name when addressing your e-mail. If you type just the first few letters and let your e-mail program fill out the rest based on your address book, it could easily misroute your message without your realizing it.

* Double-check the addresses of your intended recipients before you hit "send." Do you really want all the people to get this particular message?
* Be sure to notify your company’s legal department if there is any chance that governance, compliance or privacy regulations were violated as a result of something you sent by mistake.
* If you are using Outlook, open the sent message, click actions & "Recall this message".
* Immediately notify the person who received the e-mail that it was a mistake and, if possible, ask them not to read the message -- or at least to delete it right away.
* Use the false excuse to request your recipients to delete the mail received from you. Send another e-mail to everybody who got the problem message. In the subject header, type something like VIRUS ALERT!!! In the body of the e-mail, tell them that you think your system has been infected by a virus and that they should immediately delete any e-mails received from you recently.


I decided not to leave you on verge of tears on your missent emails in the past, and give some reason for smile as well. So, joke for you:

A Minneapolis couple decided to go to Florida to thaw out during a particularly icy winter. They planned to stay at the same hotel where they spent their honeymoon 20 years earlier.

Because of hectic schedules, it was difficult to coordinate their travel schedules. So, the husband left Minnesota and flew to Florida on Thursday, with his wife flying down the following day.

The husband checked into the hotel. There was a computer in his room, so he decided to send an email to his wife. However, he accidentally left out one letter in her email address, and without realizing his error, sent the email.

Meanwhile, somewhere in Houston , a widow had just returned home from her husband’s funeral. He was a minister who was called home to glory following a heart attack.

The widow decided to check her email expecting messages from relatives and friends. After reading the first message, she screamed and fainted. The widow’s son rushed into the room, found his mother on the floor, and saw the computer screen which read:

To: My Loving Wife 
Subject: I’ve Arrived
Date: October 16, 2005
I know you’re surprised to hear from me. They have computers here now and you are allowed to send emails to your loved ones. I’ve just arrived and have been checked in. I’ve seen that everything has been prepared for your arrival tomorrow.
Looking forward to seeing you then!!!!
Hope your journey is as uneventful as mine was.

P.S. Sure is freaking hot down here!!!!


Sources and Additional Reading:


Anonymous said...

I read this blog. it is very useful for fix email problems and great information about email services. very very thanks for share this type of information.

Michael Pekker said...

Nice link, thank you. The only problem - it is not free :)