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Group emails and privacy – as easy as BCC!



Recently we have had a few enquiries about group emails and accidental disclosures of large numbers of email addresses. It’s a common issue and even happened to the former Victorian Privacy Commission.

We thought it might be a good time to give a quick reminder about how to best protect personal information when sending out a group email.

To send a message to a large group of recipients, always use the Blind Carbon Copy (Bcc:), rather than the To: or Cc: fields. You can insert your own email address in the To: field.


Using the Bcc: field has a number of benefits. It ensures the addresses of the group email recipients are not visible in the original message, if it is forwarded, or if one of the recipients uses the ‘Reply All’ function (so the reply does not go to all those listed in the Bcc: field). Use of the Bcc: field also helps to prevent against spam, as some malware is designed to sift through address books in search of addresses to spam.

Of course, mistakes do happen, especially when people are in a rush. If you’re responsible for sending emails to large groups of people, make sure that you have processes in place for confirming that only the intended email addresses are included in distribution lists:

• Use a distribution list management program – there are plenty of programs available
• Make use of checklists
• Simply ask a colleague to confirm that everything is in order and the email addresses are in the right field.

And remember, if something does go wrong and you do end up inadvertently disclosing a large list of email addresses, the Office of the Victorian Information Commissioner is here to help. You can find our Breach Guidelines on our website or you can give us a call on 1300 00 6842.

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