Thursday, January 7, 2016

Email Oops in the News Yet Again

When I joined a police force longer ago now that I care to remember, an old case hardened sergeant told me the three sources of trouble for police officers were the "Three Ps":
  1. Piss
  2. Pussy
  3. Property
I was to find out later how true it was. Anyone fired from the police force or charged with an offence had either overused alcohol or consumed while working or driving, committed sexual hanky-panky with the wrong partner or stolen property.

In those days we didn't have computers or email. I would expect a seasoned sergeant today to mention it as a source of potential downfall for police officers who weren't vigilant.

I haven't heard of any police officers being fired as a result of email, but it sure as hell has cost many other people their jobs, marriages, and more.

In one Australian Government agency for whom I worked as an HR Specialist, I had to dismiss a young employee for sending inappropriate email to female staff. I've heard plenty of similar stories.

Just recently the Australian Government's Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Mr Peter Dutton sent a female journalist an email referring to someone as a "mad f*&^ing witch" as reported in the Sydney Morning Herald.

It resulted from another minister's misbehaviour with a public servant while on an overseas junket and just added fuel to the media fire. A direct example of one of the Three Ps.

As would be expected in this age of media hysteria, the story bounced from one news source to another for well over a week. Every man and his dog had something to say about it - even me!

There are obviously some things that one should never discuss in email. In Australia now, the Australian Government has legislation that requires Internet Service Providers to retain communication records for two years, so whatever you send via email will be recorded and retained.

Why people in high profile positions, and others sending sensitive email don't use a form of encryption, is anyone's guess. 

In Mr Dutton's case, he simply sent the message to the wrong person. But, had it been encrypted, it would have looked like this:

and nobody would have been offended. They would most likely have simply sent it back to him.

Every time someone else shoots themselves in the foot using email, there is an opportunity to learn from their mistakes. Here are some fo the things I've learnt:

  1. Use an email provider whose communication channel is more secure ie, has https protocol and not simply http
  2. Encrypt anything you don't want read by a third party (this is relatively simple)
  3. Have separate accounts for personal and work-related issues and keep content separated into either as appropriate
  4. Don't write anything in an email that may be able to embarrass you later
  5. Always check to whom you are sending the message before hitting the send button
  6. Always familiarise yourself with your employer's email and internet use policies and comply with them
Hopefully, the advice above will help you keep out of trouble.

What do you think? Have you ever been embarrassed by an email you've sent?



  1. I'm proud to say I never got into trouble in relation to any of the three Ps, but when I was doing summons and warrant services among the local "massage" parlors, I was often offered a freebie.

  2. You have to work smarter. I am a proactive person that starts tasks early and finish them early. This still takes me tremendous amount of time.

    Owner CEL Financial Services


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