Category Archives: E-mail

Google Simplifies E-mail Security

Google’s introduction of new encryption tools may be one of the most favorable security developments in a while. A New York Times article, Google Offers New Encryption Tool, explains:

The tool, called End-to-End, uses an open-source encryption standard, OpenPGP, that will allow users to encrypt their email from the time it leaves their web browser until it is decrypted by the intended recipient. It will also allow users to easily read encrypted messages sent to their web mail service. The tool will require that users and their recipients use End-to-End or another encryption tool to send and read the contents.

This could be a major blow to the N.S.A. Despite numerous cryptographic advances over the past 20 years, end-to-end email encryption like PGP and GnuPG is still remarkably labor-intensive and require a great deal of technical expertise. User mistakes — not errors in the actual cryptography — often benefited the N.S.A. in its decade-long effort to foil encryption.

The point is: NSA can decrypt or otherwise access just about any message–even if they have to break into your office and install spying tools on your computer. However, they can’t decrypt or steal every message. Even they don’t have that many resources. Increasing the use of encryption makes everyone safer from snoops, whether garden variety or super snoop.

 

Problems With E-mail Disclaimers/Warnings

It’s smart to include disclaimers in all your e-mail messages, right? A friend of mine summarized her advice at a legal conference a few years ago as “Disclaim, Disclaim, Disclaim.”

Is it really that easy? Some people think disclaimers can warnings may hurt more than they help.

A Lawyerist article entitled This Post is Privileged and Confidential has some good observations on the nearly ubiquitous disclaimers in e-mail messages:

There are several problems with these disclaimers, aside from cluttering up email threads. For one, attorney-client privilege and confidentiality are not the same thing.  Without digressing too much, suffice it to say that while all attorney-client privileged communications are confidential, only a small portion of the client information lawyers are required to treat as confidential is also privileged. Another incongruity is that an email intentionally sent from a lawyer to almost anyone except a client will not be confidential or privileged at all (setting aside agents or experts the lawyer may be contacting on the client’s behalf or negotiations subject to a confidentiality agreement or rule).  So for the vast majority of emails that lawyers send — to colleagues, to witnesses, to vendors, to friends, to listservs, etc. — the disclaimer is meaningless.

Undermining Disclaimers Through Overuse

Which brings us to the real problem with these disclaimers. By overusing them, lawyers may be undermining the effectiveness of disclaimers in protecting the confidential or privileged nature of the information in the email in the (hopefully) rare event that an email is misdirected (or inadvertently produced in discovery).

In Scott v. Beth Israel Medical Center Inc., 847 N.Y.S.2d 436, 444 (2007), the court refused to find that a series of emails were privileged just because they contained a disclaimer that was found in every email sent by the plaintiff. Moreover, by overusing disclaimers and privilege warnings, lawyers are training the world to ignore them — which is precisely what we don’t want people to do.

Want to keep your communications confidential? Encrypt them.

Plagiarizing From an Email?

Adam Grant, Wharton professor, writes a thoughtful essay on plagiarism (worth reading in its entirety) and concludes with a suggested rule:

If you use a full sentence or more from an email that someone else wrote, quote it and attribute it to that person. Otherwise, take the high road and rewrite it from scratch in your own words.

via Is It Wrong to Plagiarize From an Email? – Promising Practices – Management – GovExec.com.

E-mail: Tool of Professional Self Destruction

A front page New York Times story indicates even prestigious law firms are not immune to clueless behavior:

Four men, who were charged by New York prosecutors on Thursday with orchestrating a nearly four-year scheme to manipulate the firm’s books to keep it afloat during the financial crisis, talked openly in emails about “fake income,” “accounting tricks” and their ability to fool the firm’s “clueless auditor,” the prosecutors said.

Dumb, dumb, dumb. Don’t engage in conduct like this, and if you must, show some common sense.

Beverly Michaelis On Coping with Gmail Outages

Oregon Law Practice Management notes:

According to Business Insider, Google’s own redundant backups ensure that you will eventually reclaim all your data.  You can rely on this or implement your own recovery plan. [Hint: implement your own plan].

Pretty good hint! Beverly Michaelis goes on to explain exactly what to do and how to do it.

Lots of things to like about the Oregon Law Practice Management blog, including the elegant and effective “About” page, which has given me some ideas for upgrading mine. My favorite part is the use of Flickr photos showing the natural beauty of that wonderful state.