Practical Tip From Wiley Internet Veteran: Use BCC

apple-keyboardSecurity is a huge issue for web users. Every web user (this means you—if you’re reading this then you are a web user) should be careful about what information he discloses. You should be careful about telling the world where you are all the time. You should be careful about your passwords (change them, don’t use the same one for everything, don’t make them obvious etc). You should be careful with your email address and you should be careful with the email addresses of others. This brings me to my rant of the day. When you send a mass email (e.g., change of address or some other notification) to your friends, colleagues et al please use BCC (blind carbon copy). In any email software or online browser-based webmail program, there are a couple of places to put the “to” addresses. When you put addresses in the CC (carbon copy) line, all the other recipients can see all the email addresses to whom you sent the post. When, however, you put those addresses in the BCC line, only you can see them. They are hidden from everyone else. Generally, when sending a mass email it is considered good form to use the BCC line. Put yourself in the first “TO” line/box and then put every other address in the BCC line/box. Why? It helps reduce spam. Just because someone sent their address to you does not mean they wanted that address sent to 3,000 people whom they don’t know. It’s a courtesy. It doesn’t take any longer to use the BCC line/box than to use the CC line/box. Most of the time this happens because the sender wasn’t conscious that it could be an issue. Well, now you know. You’re welcome.


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  1. One danger with using BCC is that the recipient gets confused. So in the scenario above, the well-meaning recipient says to himself, “Gee, I should let others know about the change of address”. And so it goes. Best when using BCC is to include in your message something that lets the recipent know they are receiving something sent to many others. Naturally, if you are using BCC because you want to privately let someone into the conversation, do not make any reference. But make sure the part receiving the BCC knows not to jump into the conversation and then embarrass you by exposing your BCC usage.

    Finally, I have found that some email environments expose BCC fields if you do not have at least one email address in the TO: field, so I always just make that TO: field addressable to myself just to be safe.

    (a.k.a., Ask Mr. Religion or AMR)

  2. Here’s an item for your grammar guerilla: Internet vs. Web.

    Summary: The World Wide Web is an interconnected system of hyperlinked documents that uses the Internet for communication. WWW users use the Internet, but Internet users (eg. email users, those to whom the advice for using BCC) are not necessarily World Wide Web (or “web”) users.

    The Internet is not the web. The [world wide] web (WWW) is a construct on the Internet, that uses the HTTP protocol. The Internet is the global interconnected TCP/IP network that provides the means for many different communication technologies (such as email (SMTP), the “web”(HTTP/HTTPS), FTP, SSH, etc.) to work. The Internet dates back to 1970’s with ARPANET (actually 1969), and NSFNET, which was superceded in 1990s by what we know today as the Internet. The World Wide Web didn’t appear until Tim Berners-Lee at CERN put the first web server on line in 1991.

  3. You should be careful about your passwords (change them, don’t use the same one for everything, don’t make them obvious etc)

    My favorite technique for picking strong passwords is also a bible-memorization tool. Build a password out of the address and some of the important words of the verse. For instance, Gen1:1itb — it has caps (you can mix it up like maybe itB, it has punctuation (you can mix it up like maybe 1!1), and it is memorable. If you pick a verse that has something to do with the site, then if you forget the password exactly, you can look up the verse and reconstruct it.

    (People do this also with favorite songs, like the first letter of every word in the first line or the chorus of a song they know well)

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