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How Auto-Complete Became An Auto-Fail For Gordon & Reese

Recently, the Pew Research Center released a report that revealed almost everyone in the U.S. uses email for something.  Emailing for personal and business use has become so much a part of our daily routines that many Americans have reported that they feel they cannot go without it, even for a day.

Because we use email so often, it is no surprise that related applications of all manner and type have been developed to make email more productive, user-friendly, enjoyable.  One such application is the “autocomplete” feature in most email services that will automatically insert things like the address of the recipient or sender – you know, mundane kinds of information that are not worth thinking about.  Heck, isn’t that why someone invented the darned “autocomplete” feature in the first place?

You might want to ask attorneys at Gordon & Reese, a very well-respected law firm, what they think.  In a business partnership dispute, an email thread of 4 messages was routed to an improper party — and then, ironically, auto-routed to that party’s legal department — all because the attorney sending the email failed to notice that “auto-complete” was inserting the wrong (in this case, an old) email address. As a result, the judge in the case issued a scathing protective order in the case and booted Gordon & Reese from the case.

You can download the protective order from The Cyber Box and here is a link to an article from “Legal Pad” discussing this not-so-unlikely case.

The moral of this story is to be careful with any of these automated features.  Mistakenly hitting “reply to all” can be disastrous in email communications involving legal issues.

Many browsers support great apps — like Wise Stamp — which allow you to create multiple email contact profiles for your various emailing needs.  These apps have loads of “bells and whistles” designed to turn your contact information into its own mini-marketing campaign.

However, in all of these apps that I have looked at, one of the profiles is treated as the “auto-default” profile.  In addition to making sure your communications are accurate, make sure the profile you are using is the desired one.  For example, you may not want a staunchly conservative business associate knowing that you belong to an organization that supports free needle exchange programs or other controversial issues.  Similarly, if you are doing business with someone you know only wants to work with very liberal, eco-friendly lawyers, it would not be good business acumen to, inadvertently, disclose in an email address profile that you belief global warming is a hoax cooked up by Al Gore.

This doesn’t mean avoid such applications entirely.  Wise Stamp is consistently one of the most popular applications among Firefox and Chrome users, and for good reason.  But, don’t let convenience become laziness and knock you out of the saddle.

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