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Tech Talk with Greg Bailey

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In today’s world, e-mail is a very powerful tool. It lets you stay in practically instant contact with friends and family, and is a vital part of any successful business.

The use of e-mail is widespread, from people who only use it for social reasons, to employees keeping coworkers up to date, to people who only use it very occasionally to contact specific individuals.

Regardless of how someone uses email (but especially if that usage involves mass e-mails to several groups of people at once) the time should be taken to learn the proper methods of sending e-mail. When you compose an e-mail, there are three fields that allow you to dictate who receives the message: the “To:” field, the “CC:” field, and the “BCC” field.

Knowing which field to use at which time can prevent e-mail mistakes that may put an e-mail (or an e-mail address) into the wrong person’s hands.

First, the ‘To:’ field. This is the main place to put the address of the people you want to receive the e-mail. Any addresses that are put in this field will get the message once you hit send. Note that I said “addresses”, as in you can have more than one name in the To: field. This can be useful, if you have to send an e-mail to five different people, you only have to send one message to five addresses instead of five separate messages.

What you need to be aware of, however, is that any name put into the To: field can be seen by anyone who receives the email.

If X, Y, and Z are all in To:, then when X opens your message he can see you also sent it to Y and Z. This may not be a problem, but it is possible that you want to keep the addresses of Y and Z a secret from X. Even if you yourself don’t care about secrecy; X, Y, or Z might not want their e-mail addresses known to anyone aside from you. If this is the case, you cannot put the three addresses in the To: field.

‘CC:’ (for carbon copy) is very similar to To:. In effect, they do essentially the same thing; CC: will make and send a copy of the e-mail sent to the addresses in To:. Since they do the same thing, the same problems with e-mail address privacy still exist. To that end, there is ‘BCC:’. The “B” in BCC: stands for blind, as in anyone who receives the email is blind to any address that was in the BCC: field. Following the previous example, if you send an e-mail putting A in the To: field and X Y and Z in the BCC: field, A will only see his own e-mail address, and X Y and Z will only see their own address. To ensure the privacy of the recipients of a mass e-mail, you should put any addresses in the BCC: field as opposed to putting them all in the To: or CC: field.

Entering the right addresses in the right fields will keep the e-mail addresses of those you are messaging private when they need to be, preventing any awkward situations.

This article is part of a series devoted to Internet security, and learning how to keep you and your information safe. Any questions, requests for clarifications, or comments can be sent to gregbailey9@ gmail.com.

Greg Bailey is a Computer Science major at UCR Bourns College of Engineering

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