The email landscape is very different to what it was at the start of the 21st century. Mobile devices are now the most popular devices for reading emails. New email clients have appeared and legacy systems have disappeared. Instant messaging and social media have enhanced the way we communicate digitally.
And ever increasing email laws impact heavily on how it is used within the business world. From the General Data Protection Regulation (EU) 2016/679 (GDPR) to the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), email is becoming more tightly regulated in an age where phishing, spam, and cyber attacks are becoming more commonplace.
What about email disclaimers?
This inevitably brings us to the humble email disclaimer. With new regulations in effect and shifts in email trends, do they even still matter in 2022?
Well, let's answer that question with another question...how many emails are your employees sending a year? Most likely, it will be in the thousands if not more so. That's plenty of opportunities for just one email to damage your company's reputation, be it accidentally or maliciously, through libelous comments, leaking of confidential data, copyright infringement and even transmission of viral content. Even in 2022, it still makes absolute sense for companies of all sizes to use email disclaimers to protect their brand reputation and corporate liability.
But why do we even use them in the first place? The appearance of a disclaimer can be slightly unpleasant after all. Email disclaimers were originally created to cover confidentiality breaches, adhere to various email regulations and prevent companies being liable for negligent advice.
Some parties say that email disclaimers carry no authority. However, the wording is designed to protect and prevent legal action against you. An email disclaimer, when written correctly, can cover you in the following areas:
Breach of confidentiality
Liability for the unintentional transmission of computer viruses
Accidental breach of confidentiality
Unintentionally entering in to contracts
Regional legal or regulatory requirements
Email disclaimers in practice
Many advanced markets, such as the European Union and North America, still have regulations in place that require businesses to add disclaimers to emails, something that is not likely to change any time soon.
Take the United States for example. It has the most complete set of email disclaimer laws in the world. The Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) states that for regulatory compliance, an appropriate disclaimer needs to be included in all email communications. This then filters down into different industries where there are different requirements.
Let's look at the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). This act strongly recommends that healthcare organizations use email disclaimers to highlight patient confidentiality in all communications.
Now, a disclaimer does not make a company fully compliant with HIPAA law. Nonetheless, it ensures patients know the following:
The email they are receiving is not 100% secure
The content placed within the message is of a confidential nature
The message should be passed on to the relevant person if they are not the correct recipient
An example of a HIPAA email disclaimer would be:
"The information contained in this transmission may contain privileged and confidential information, including patient information protected by federal and state privacy laws. It is intended only for the use of the person(s) named above. If you are not the intended recipient, you are hereby notified that any review, dissemination, distribution, or duplication of this communication is strictly prohibited. If you are not the intended recipient, please contact the sender by reply email and destroy all copies of the original message."
Other countries, however, make email disclaimers on all messages mandatory. The Canada Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) mandates that ALL companies obtain some level of consent before sending email messages to any recipient. That means all email signatures must contain appropriate legal text with unsubscribe links in place.
This, in essence, gives consumers complete control over their email messages. This law applies to all ingoing and outgoing email messages, and violating this law can cost your organization up to $10 million.
Watch our email disclaimer webinar
For more information on the topic of email disclaimers, make sure you watch our webinar in BrightTALK. We take a look at:
The reasons companies use email disclaimers for legal compliance
Key legislation and laws that require the use of disclaimers
How to add email disclaimers to a signature block and best practices
To protect your business, it is still highly advisable to use an appropriate legal disclaimer on your emails. It's simply not worth the risk.
It's true that email disclaimers will never provide you 100% protection against any legal action. Still, it makes sense to include disclaimers to provide an extra level of legal protection.
Remember also that laws continually change, so you need to make sure that you keep up. The text included in your email disclaimer might work in one region but not another.
It's best to use dedicated email signature management solutions to centrally manage all disclaimer content from one central location. With central management, you can always ensure that all users’ corporate emails consistently have the necessary legal disclaimer.