Ever got one of these? An email of the form “Person X would like to recall the message, [subject of the message goes here]”?
You’ll probably get something like this a few minutes after someone has just sent you an email you weren’t supposed to get. This happens semi-regularly – I’ll get a game press release that wasn’t supposed to be out in the wild yet, or someone has just sent a message to 300 people and put them all in the Cc: list instead of the Bcc: list… there’s a lot of great screw-ups I could refer to.
While this is, on the surface, just a hilarious artifact of newbs using computers, it actually is demonstrative of a pretty serious problem – controlling accidental information spread in an increasingly digital world.
A single mis-addressed email these days can bring down businesses and sway entire markets, and trying to control confidential information is something that companies are taking more and more seriously (but still probably not seriously enough to make a big difference).
Fortunately, open source has got you covered. Some clever students over at Carnegie Mellon University have created an extension for Thunderbird (the free, open source email client from the Mozilla team) that attempts to help control the spread of information by helping you make sure you’re sending emails to the right spot.
The extension, called Cut Once, learns who should be and shouldn’t be receiving emails that you’re sending (through some sort of document word count analysis). Once it has been trained, when you go to send an email it will check your recipients and advise you if there’s someone on there that perhaps shouldn’t be.
It will also suggest recipients that you might want to add – something which I feel would be less useful for my line of work, but possibly useful for others.