Spam and the BCC

If you’ve ever received email spam and wondered what the BCC field is for – or have never heard of it – this post is for you.

The Fight Against Spam

The battle against email spam waxes and wanes. At the moment it’s pretty much waning. By some estimations email spam accounts for around 94% of all email traffic. That’s not good. So while the various regulators and technicians do their thing in the fight against spam, we must do our part.

What can be done? Well, for the average email user it’s pretty simple. Spammers need email addresses. So anything we can do to reduce the chances of them finding addresses helps.

Some general advice would include things like having a secondary or ‘throw away’ address with gmail or yahoo or your ISP for use online and in places where your unsure of security – forum registration and newsletter subscriptions for instance.

Protect Your Email Addresses

Your main email address and those of your friends and clients are assets that needs protection.

A picture of the blind carbon copy option

That’s where the Bcc comes in.

The Bcc field or ‘blind carbon copy’ field is a handy but underused part of email technology.

Simply put, it hides email addresses. Whatever email addresses are placed in the the Bcc field are hidden from recipients.

It’s usually below the Cc or ‘carbon copy’ field. Check your email program’s documentation if your not sure how to find it. There’s a helpful guide for Outlook Express users here.

Group Emails and ‘Chain Letters’

The Bcc’s main use is handling group emails. In some situations, e.g. small groups where the members are all known to each other, it’s desirable for the recipients to know who else is receiving the email. In other cases however, it’s not relevant or may even be beneficial for privacy reason to hide the addresses of recipients. This is where the Bcc field can and should be used.

This is particularly so if you feel compelled to forward those emails sent by friends and family with jokes, appeals, pearls of wisdom or pictures of furry animals doing cute things.

Unfortunately, this practise is often ignored and you have no doubt received mail with 10’s or 100’s of email addresses of complete strangers. Consequently, email addresses are scattered across the globe ending up on compromised computers and frequently falling into the hands of spammers.

Using the Bcc will not necessarily secure your address if you’re the one sending the mail. But in the end everyone benefits. It’s a simple step towards reducing spam.

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