Jeopardizing Customer Trust

by Thom Hiatt

How would you feel if your lawyer sent an email to you and 50 of his other clients, detailing each person’s name, description of the case, and account balance due?

Imagine if the tavern in town fired off an email to 100 people (including you) listing what each patron had consumed since January 1st.

Or what if your favorite non-profit listed all of its members’ home addresses, cell numbers, and donations in the latest monthly newsletter!

Either situation is terrible, and there’s a mighty fine chance you’d be upset to be included or publicly showcased in this way. But sadly these poor judgements take place on a fairly regular basis.

Nobody wants to have their personal information made available to the masses, or even to just a few other strangers. You just never know who is going to get it or see it.

Plus, there are certain HIGH LEVEL categories of businesses and organizations that are extra personal to us: financial, legal, medical, political, etc. With groups like these, we want to be the only one in control of our own information.

Last week I received an email from a VERY HIGH LEVEL business with which I do business. It was a harmless invitation to a lunch. And thankfully, my personal finances and medical records were not exposed. However, the business included many of its clients’ names and email addresses in the TO line of the email.

(A screen shot of that email is shown here. If I simply click the down arrow by the recipients, I can see first names, last names and email addresses.)

In this particular situation, I was not personally threatened or placed in a bad position. But I am not so sure about the other clients; some of them are famous and very well off, and I assume they don’t want their personal email addresses shown to the world.


  • The client’s private life and affairs are now made public.
  • The company has made it significantly easier for a competitor to contact new prospects!
  • In many cases, with only an email address, you can find many personal details about an individual.
  • If the email is regarding an event, a burglar can research you, find your home and simply wait for you to leave for the party.
  • Worst of all, a client’s trust in you begins to fade away. “If you’ve shared my name and email address, what else could you be sharing? And with whom?”


  • At the very least, paste email addresses into the BCC field of the email. At least they are kept private from all recipients. But there are other technical issues that may prevent communication, including the overall size of your list, and the fact that many email systems will block blind emails from getting to clients in the first place. So…
  • Use a professional mass emailing service, for example, Constant Contact. Free trial here. Services like these allow you to send bulk email to both small and very large groups. Each email can be personalized, and no recipient has any ability to see who else is on your list.
  • Use snail mail and send a paper invitation.
  • Use the phone and your good old fashioned voice to make your invitation.

Be careful out there. Be careful on the internet in general. And be careful with your communications, email habits, and with social status updates. A harmless error can have devastating consequences to people, and to businesses.