the “bcc” field and “paranoia emails”

Computer Matters Newsletter 2 – the “bcc” field and “paranoia emails”

Republishing an old newsletter from July 2007:

I hope all is well and welcome to my second newsletter. At the bottom of this email, you will find an update on my attempt to raise some charity.

Please also note that I will now be in London for the month of July and most of August, so I am happy to hear from you if your computers need any attention!

In this letter I will briefly cover the use of the “Bcc” field in Outlook and why this is so important. So what is this Bcc? Does it have anything to do with the BBC?

If you open up a new email in Outlook, you should see at the top of the email three “fields”. At the very top is the “To” field, followed by the “Cc” field followed by the “Bcc” field. You should also see a Bcc in other email programs like hotmail, gmail and Outlook Express.

Note: On some versions of Outlook, you may not see the Bcc field, especially if you use word as an editor. If the “Bcc” is missing in your Outlook, please feel free to email me.

The “To” field is obvious – we use it all the time to dictate who we want to send the email to. So what is the purpose of “Cc” and “Bcc”?

Well, “Cc” stands for “Carbon Copy” and “Bcc” stands for “Blind carbon copy” and has nothing to do with the BBC. The former field just means that everyone listed in “Cc” will know “they are being copied in” but it is more for their reference than for them to action something. The email was really sent to the person mention in the “To” field.

The “Bcc” is far more interesting – anyone listed in this field will not be revealed as a recipient of the email. Only the email addresses of people listed in the “To” or “Cc” fields will be known.

So, for example: If I send Fred an email AND I “Cc”: Janet AND I also “Bcc”: George; Mary; Peter


(a) Fred sees the email and knows I copied Janet in. But Fred does not know three other people have been sent the email.
(b) Janet sees the email and knows I sent the email to Fred and copied her in. But Janet does not know three other people have been sent the email.
(c) George, Mary and Peter all see the email and know I sent it to Fred and copied Janet. They should also know that they were “secretly” blind copied in to the email, but they do not know that others were also secretly blind copied in to the email.

I hope that makes sense and you like my originality in my use of names – it really took me a while to think them up.

So, when would using “Bcc” be useful?

There are SO MANY examples!!!!! Two that spring to mind are:

1. If you write an email to someone and want to reference other people – BUT you really do not want the main recipient of the email to know that I am copying other people in.
2. If you want to send a group email and you want to protect the precious list of all your contacts.

I cannot begin to stress how important point 2 is. How many times have you received what I call a “paranoia” email? How many times have you forwarded one on to all your contacts?

For example: the dangers of filling up petrol at a petrol station, or Osama Bin-Laden is going to appear on your computer in a week deleting all your emails, or Bill Gates will send you and all your mates a box of champagne if you forward this email on……

99% of these emails are fakes. If you copy and paste a line of such an email in to google, you will often find websites confirming they are fake. They are just designed by spammers and crazy folk to spread fear quickly through cyberspace.

Why do people do this? Possibly because it gives them a kick to do so, like some people enjoy vandalism and graffiti. Or possibly because spammers are rubbing their hands together with glee when they get forwarded an email with 300 legitimate email addresses revealed.

I have personally saved well over 1000 email addresses of people I do not know from these types of emails….just in case I decide to become a spammer :>)

So, if you do come across an email that you truly want to forward on (after checking in google that is it not a hoax), then please, please, please start making good use of the “Bcc” field and then at least recipients of your generously forwarded message will rest assured that their precious email address is not being forwarded on to the whole world.


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