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Posted on 12.17.2014

Lessons from a Scandal: Write with No Expectation of Privacy

As we sit behind our keyboards day after day, I’m beginning to think we are lulled into a false sense of security, believing  we have a firm grasp on what we send into cyberspace and ultimately sees the light of day. Sure, there is the occasional snafu when you hit ‘reply all’ to an email and everyone in the office sees what was meant for only one. 

However we are just as guilty of behaving badly in varying degrees by putting something in an email, IM, or text we’d cringe to see splashed across the cover of a print or online publication or even tacked to the refrigerator in the office break room. If I were a betting woman, I’d even venture to say all of us have done it at least once.

Unfortunately, Sony Entertainment can’t seem to wake from its real-life nightmare of the same ilk. Email banter between friends was unleashed for public consumption thanks to an email hack, and it’s kept Sony’s crisis communications team inundated, no doubt.  The supposedly private email exchange between Hollywood producer  Scott Rudin and Sony Entertainment Chairman Amy Pascal has become fodder for the media, both mainstream and not-so-mainstream. In fact, as a result of the hack, one of the largest daily newspapers in the U.S., The New York Times, has published a series of stories based upon the information.

Since the fallout, Rudin and Pascal have each issued a personal mea culpa, asking for forgiveness for their misdeeds and disparaging remarks about colleagues, actors, directors, industry publications and even racially insensitive comments about President Obama.

These types of scandals are beginning to seem all too commonplace. However, a recent study indicates our instincts lead us to reconsider unfettered communication via email and similar vehicles. According to research by the Pew Research Internet Project, there is a general distrust of online communication tools. Only 5 percent of adults feel “very secure” communicating via email, while 35 percent say they are “somewhat secure.” The majority of those polled – 57 percent of adults – felt either “not very secure or “not at all secure” sending email. In fact of the six different mediated communication methods considered – landlines, cell phones, text messages, email, chat/IM and social media sites – none received a majority vote of confidence in confidentiality.

Last week on  “The HuffPost Show,” HuffPo network president Roy Sekoff conducted a refreshing interview with Lisa Kudrow, of “Friends” fame, where the topic of privacy was front and center. Kudrow offered sage advice: “Don’t write anything you don’t want broadcast.” She went on to say we would all be better served to have no expectation of privacy in email communication. Though Kudrow isn’t necessarily a communications subject-matter expert, her advice is spot on.

Let this example serve as one more cautionary reminder – in an unfortunately growing list – that what is done in the dark just may come to light.

What’s your take on the Sony email scandal? Should the media report on the leaked emails?


Andrea Ewin Turner is a Senior Account Supervisor at Lovell Communications. You can view more of Andrea’s blogs here.  Connect with Andrea at Andrea@lovell.com  or @aewinturner

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