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Email Disclaimers – Do They Mean Anything?

February 19, 2015

If you’ve ever received an email from an accountant, doctor or lawyer, chances are you’ve probably spotted a long email disclaimer at the bottom of the message. Typically, these messages claim that the information within the email is confidential, and that only the intended recipient is allowed to view it.

Almost always, these email disclaimers threaten some pretty severe legal action – but do they actually do anything to protect the contents of your email?

What Do Email Disclaimers Actually Do?

In 2008, a lawyer representing the drug company Eli Lilly accidentally sent an email containing case information to a reporter working for the New York Times. The lawyer had previously sent the reporter an email, who had a similar last name to another attorney he was trying to contact. When he was typing in the lawyer’s email address, his email program auto-filled in the name of the reporter instead of the lawyer.

The information allowed the reporter to break a huge story about a potential settlement in the case. For both the lawyer and Eli Lilly, it was a disaster.

This is despite the fact that the lawyer’s email carried with it an email disclaimer that supposedly prohibited the reporter from even looking at the information, let alone writing about it. It’s no surprise that the reporter ignored it, however. “There is no legal doctrine or theory under which an email confidentiality disclaimer is enforceable in a circumstance like this,” John Hutchins, a lawyer writing for the American Bar Association, notes.

If email disclaimers are all bark and no bite, why are they so frequently used in signature lines? Primarily, they’re just used as a scare tactic to dissuade individuals from reading information that was never intended for their eyes. After all, they don’t cost anything, and there is a chance they might keep an honest person honest.

A Better Way to Protect Email

Although email disclaimers won’t protect your skin after you accidentally send someone’s confidential information to your old college roommate, Virtru will. In addition to making encrypting your emails easier than ever, Virtru also allows you to recall a secure message at any time, for any reason – you have complete control over any email you send with Virtru.

Unlike an email disclaimer that only protects your email as long as the recipient feels threatened by it, Virtru protects your email by encrypting it, preventing a recipient from opening your email unless they have your permission. Even if the message is sitting in their inbox, you have the power to revoke their ability to read it.

Download Virtru today and see how easy it is to have complete control over your email and your privacy.