Do You Copy? What Can Go Wrong with BCC
Try to find someone who has not “replied all” when meaning to send to only one individual. It’s embarrassing and can aggravate those people with more emails flooding their box. Another common email gaffe is misusing the CC and BCC fields in outgoing messages. This mistake can prove costly for business.
You’ll have noticed those extra fields below the “To” field in your email client. CC stands for carbon copy, and BCC for blind carbon copy.
When you use CC, it’s like you’ve imprinted your message on an old blue sheet of carbon paper. The email copy sends to your To recipients as well as anyone you have CC’d. All recipients can see who else you sent your message to. This is a great way to encourage collaboration and accountability.
When you use BCC, your To recipient and anyone else you BCC’d gets the email, but you’re not showing where you sent the message. This is for when you’re addressing a large group of contacts that may not know each other, or when you are sending a group message but you want to respect the privacy of all your recipients.
The Blind Carbon Copy Nightmare
A big problem is using To or CC when meaning to use BCC. You inadvertently expose all your contacts’ email addresses. Personal contact information needs protection, and people’s privacy demands respect. You don’t want to make this mistake with a single or a few emails, or worse still hundreds or thousands of emails.
There are many examples of BCC blunders. West Ham United Football Club faces the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office fines for confirming all season ticket holders with email addresses in the CC field. In another example, the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse was fined US$260,000 for exposing possible victims of child abuse in the same way.
Scotland’s National Health Service messaged transgender patients with their addresses in the To field. Instead of using BCC, the sender used an open distribution list. This shared 86 Glasgow patient email addresses and, perhaps, patient names and dates of birth when the addresses incorporated those details. You can bet there were some heated replies to that message, although the reports didn’t share whether they were “reply all” or not.
Also, the Sydney Morning Herald reported on a real estate company employee mistakenly CC’ing 300 customer emails. A customer complained. The error resulted in a six-figure aftermath. Lawyers, a consulting firm, and eight full-time employees worked on a data breach response plan for weeks.
What’s Better Than BCC
Any CC or BCC blunder could be a data breach. Take care. Don’t risk the loss of customer trust and possible compliance issues.
When you need to send out an email to a large group of people when you’re not necessarily expecting a response, use mailing software such as Mailchimp. Email marketing platforms send an individual copy of your message to every person on your mailing list, so there’s no risk of your contact list being exposed.