Sunday, June 30, 2013

The use of bcc - blind carbon copy

When I first heard of blind carbon copy (bcc) many years ago, I thought that "blind" was the operative word as in "blind" side.  Typically, I thought its use was to send a message to perhaps a co-worker, but then bcc the boss to show that you really were working with a screwball who you may feel isn't pulling his or her weight.  In such a case, by "bccing" the boss, your co-worker has no idea that the message you sent is also being seen (and as a result) being monitored by the boss.

I think many of us have matured in our awareness of the pitfalls of electronic communications.  I know I learned early on that less can be more when it comes to electronic communications.  I remember sending off what I thought was a humorous email about the perils of the cafeteria's chili to a mailbox only to be contacted later in the day and informed "G, did you know that was posted to the whole hospital?"  Well, no; no I didn't.  Such was my introduction to the electronic bulletin board.
For many years, I simply did not use bcc as I thought it was rather sneaky and cowardly to send off a message and secretly include others.  However, with time and experience I have found there are times when bcc is not only appropriate, but also preferred.


Suppose you have a joyous event such as the birth of a child and you want to send (almost) everyone in your email address book an announcement.  It's great if all your friends and family are one loving bunch, but typically you have some that don't mix with others.  For example, you may not want to share the email addresses of your friends with your family and vice versa or you may not want to share the email addresses of one or more faction of the family with another.  Yes, you could copy and paste umpteen emails, but why go through all that.  After all, you should be on your way to spending time with your newborn, not pecking on your computer.  The answer:  one message and put all of your friends and family on the bcc line.  Once you do this, everyone can get the same message, at the same time and no one gets email addresses of the others because no one will see the other addressees.

Even if all of your friends and family get along, you may want to choose bcc.  Why?  Not all users are created equal.  Some of your friends and family may not take the same precautions with spyware and virus protection that you do.  When you send out a string of email addresses, you increase your exposure and potential for these addresses to be accessed and used by malware.

Prevent reply to all:

Every so often at work, an "email" storm starts.  Typically some message is sent to a large mail group and it draws in multiple (sometimes hundreds) of unwanted comments and remarks.  This can range from "me too" responses to multiple "LOLs" and so forth.  This may not be an issue for some, but the volume of email can get burdensome and this junk mail becomes a time waster.  If you place the mail group or series of email addresses on the bcc line, those individuals on the bcc line cannot respond back to all (although they may respond back to you as the sender).  In this case judicious use of bcc will be appreciated by your co-workers and associates.  It reflects that you value and are conscientious of their time and privacy.

I will note that often bcc is infrequently use and in some email programs, the bcc line may not be exposed.  A simple Google search of "bcc" and "your email client" will help you identify how to expose the bcc line in your application.  As your email sophistication matures, it is definitely worthwhile to revisit the use of bcc.

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