Email Multi-Generation Forwarding by Sam C. Chan
First Published: March 27, 2006
: December 27, 2006

This article takes a quick look at the harm introduced by multi-generation forwarding.

Table: Email Multi-Generation Forward Exposure

  • The percentage indicates the % of recipients who in-turn forward to others.
  • The columns represent the average number of recipients in forward mailing list.
  • The rows represent the recipients of each generation (non-cumulative) of forwarding.
  • For example:
    • If 10% forward to 15 others, the 9th generation alone reaches 1,123, with a cumulative total reach of  3,081 people.
    • If 20% forward to 30 others, after 9 generations, the message reaches/bothers over 72 million people! And, if BCC wasn't used by everyone at every level, the email addresses are potentially exposed to the same 72 millions!

The implications

  • The tremendous reaching power or crushing "bugging" power.
  • Risk of address harvested by compromised machines and/or malicious persons down stream.
  • Privacy violation:
    • disclosure of name-email association.
    • disclosure of social/business/political association.
  • Burden of delivering by the ISPs:
    • each piece must be repeatedly transmitted to each individual recipient.
    • the collective space required to store the tens of millions of copies.

The Recommendations

  • Don't!
  • If you must, be extremely selective with your forwarding mailing list.
  • Periodically re-evaluate and prune your list.
  • Formally make it an opt-in list, or at least actively solicit opt-out.
  • Always use BCC. To/CC are reserved for small groups of closely related members requiring full interaction and disclosure only! This rule is mandatory!

See Also:

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