April 21, 1999 2:45 PM PDT

Another corporate email gaffe

In the latest in a string of corporate email gaffes, Seagate Software on Monday sent out an email to more than 1,500 customers and resellers that exposed each of the recipients' email addresses. Each recipient was able to view the addresses of all the others.

Erin Jones, public relations director for Seagate Software, said the cause of the email problem was a "clerical error." Jones said Seagate regularly sends out email to its customers, normally sending out blind carbon copies of the message to each recipient. But this time, an inexperienced clerk accidentally pasted the addresses in the "to" field.

"It was a simple accident performed by somebody who hadn't done this before," Jones said. "Unfortunately, this was a little more visible."

Seagate's goof comes a week after Nissan and AT&T acknowledged similar email mistakes. Nissan exposed some 24,000 customer email addresses, while AT&T revealed about 1,800.

Privacy advocate Ari Schwartz of the Center for Democracy and Technology said the recent incidents have come to light because people are becoming more concerned about protecting their privacy. Schwartz said companies need to focus on privacy issues "even when sending out simple messages."

"Certainly this is not as bad as somebody's medical records being posted," Schwartz said. "But there are lines and people's email addresses being sent out makes people unhappy."

Among those upset by Seagate's email was a software reseller in Manhattan. The salesman, who asked that his name not be used, said he has received several email like the one from Seagate. Blaming the mistakes on unsophisticated users, he said one of the problems with such messages is that they often result in an "email storm," as recipients trying to reply to the sender end up hitting the reply-to-all button.

"This happens a lot more frequently than people know," he said.

 

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