It happens all the time, whether you know it or not!
E-mails sent explicitly to one person end up being forwarded to others. Trust broken. Even though it happens all the time, just like many other misconceptions about the online arena and email, that doesn’t mean it is good practice.
This week a kind reader brought to my attention a situation she was in. She had discovered that a friend had forwarded an email where she had shared personal information about a problem she was going through with her boyfriend.
One of the forward recipients then forwarded her the copy and commentary that she had received from her “friend.” That person stated, “I thought you should know you are trusting the wrong person.”
She was heartbroken — this was a person that she trusted. Erroneously. She was not sure what to do. Only she knows if the relationship is worth salvaging.
Trust is nearly impossible to regain.
Trust and Respect?
When someone sends you an email, they tacitly consider it for your eyes only. And so should you. Now, there are exceptions, such as threatening or otherwise illegal communications. But, of course, you should forward emails of that nature to authorities. Or even in this case where another friend exposed the nefarious activities of another.
If your intentions are honorable, if you feel forwarding an email to another party can help the person who sent it to you, ask their permission to do so first. Then, explain what you hope to accomplish.
But when it comes to your email communications, the forwarding of private emails to others will rarely reflect positively on you. Yes, the other side may not know you did so unless someone exposes them to you. However, do not doubt that those you snarkily forward to won’t wonder if you would do the same to them.
By forwarding private emails, you reflect a fundamental lack of character by betraying the person’s trust whose email you are exposing without their permission.
If trust and character are not enough to abstain from forwarding emails sent to you, the fact is that emails are copyright protected by the author at the time they are created. You write an email; it is protected by copyright law. Law. That’s how copyright works.
So, to forward, publish or post without the original author’s permission is copyright infringement. Take note, though; this doesn’t apply when on company time using company resources — in the workplace, there should be no expectation of your owning any copyright. But the copyright still is applied and remains. Company equipment, time, resources — company’s copyright.
Are you to be trusted?
Can those who email you know that they have your trust? Or should they be concerned that you may forward their writings to others without their knowledge?
Trust takes time to build and even longer to repair, if even possible, once breached. So be that person that can be trusted — not the one forwarding other’s emails with your snarky or condescending commentary.