Send Group Email and Keep Recipients Private

     

Send Group Email and Keep Recipients PrivateSending emails can be private business. You might want to send an email to multiple recipients but not let any of the recipients know the others. How do you achieve this? There are two easy ways for sending emails to many persons at the same time.

Option A: Send the emails individually

This is a simple option. And in the strict sense, it’s not even a group email. In essence, this method is very straightforward: you just write the email body, subject and one recipient to “To” field and hit Send. And then you rinse and repeat as many times as you have recipients.

This is a good option because it allows you to personalize the messages. For example, you can start the email with proper salute like Dear Mr. Jones, Dear Mr. Newton, Dear Ms. Campbell. This might have positive effect on the response rate. People love to hear their own names and might be more willing to reply to you – that is, if you’re hoping for a reply.

However, this method can be time consuming. That is why the smart people who invented email came up with another solution.

Option B: Use Blind carbon copy

Blind carbon copy, also known as BCC, is a way to conceal the recipients of an email message. By putting recipients to the “To” or “CC” fields everyone will know who else got the message. However, with BCC, the recipient list is concealed. The following will demonstrate the use of Blind Carbon Copy.

From a Gmail account, I’ll send email to two recipients. I put both recipients to the BCC field (can be added from Gmail’s Compose window’s upper right corner):

Also Gmail can send BCC, also known as Blind carbon copy, emails

I hit the Send button and go to check the corresponding email addresses. For the @akseliniemela.com email I’ll use a self-hosted RoundCube Webmail, and for the other one Outlook.com webmail. Let’s see the RoundCube one first:

This is how it looks to receive email with BCC addresses on RoundCube

You can’t see the @outlook.com email address here – even though it was one of the recipients. You can only see the @akseliniemela.com address, because the above is the very mailbox for that email. Next, let’s take a look at the source of this email and see if all the recipients are available there:

Source of the email in RoundCube, not showing all the recipients in the BCC field

Can you see the @outlook.com address there? Nope. However, you can see “undisclosed-recipients” in “To” field. This means there are BCC recipients for the message, suggesting that somebody else got the message too – but indeed, not revealing who.

Now that we’ve seen that at least Roundcube Webmail doesn’t show all BCC recipients, we must check if Outlook.com does. You might expect Microsoft, a huge corporation, to gather more information than individual webmail providers, after all. Following is a screenshot from Outlook.com webmail:

This is how it looks receiving BCC email on Outlook.com

Well, where is the @akseliniemela.com email address? In fact, where’s the @outlook.com address – the one whose inbox we’re just viewing? “To” field is empty and “BCC” field is missing. Neither of the recipients are there, because of the way how Outlook.com shows data. Let’s see if we can extract more information from the source…

The email source of an Outlook.com email, not all BCCs showing here either

As you can see, not all BCC recipients are here either. Just the @outlook.com email address whose email copy’s source we are viewing. Also note the “undisclosed-recipients” in “To” field – also Outlook.com is putting it there.

So, here we are, having successfully sent group email and kept recipients from knowing each other. Blind carbon copy is useful, but I’d still like to address a couple of possible issues with BCC:

Plain confusion

The person who reads the BCC’ed email might not be shown as a recipient. Consider the above photo from Outlook.com interface. There’s no recipient in the message. “To” field is empty and there are no CC or BCC fields visible. Somebody who doesn’t understand email very well will probably be confused. He might even think the message isn’t meant for him and delete it right away.

Email provider limitations

Some email providers won’t allow you to send email without at least one recipient in “To” field. So what do you do in case of BCC? You can put your own email there. Then the recipient will see the same email being the sender and receiver of the email. This might, naturally, be quite a baffling experience for someone who doesn’t know how blind carbon copy works.

BCC may have spam issues

Some email filters on the receiving end might be prone to label BCC emails as junk. Indeed, it’s sometimes used to send dozens or even hundreds of emails, and will probably get some angry recipients replying you with questions like “Where the hell did you get my email?”

BCC and Reply-All

Consider A sends an email, with B in To field and C in BCC field. B, who received the email normal way, only sees himself as the recipient. On the other hand, C also sees that B received the message because B’s attendance wasn’t hidden by a blind carbon copy. Now, what happens if C hits Reply-All? Both A and B will get his reply. The reply content itself might be harmless, but what if A didn’t want B to know that also C receives the original message? Well, after C’s Reply-All B knows. Embarrassing!

Which method is better?

I’d vouch for the first option. It’s better in many ways:

  • You’ll send a personalized message to each recipient. They’ll be more likely to respond.
  • Because there’s only one recipient per one email, the message will be less likely to get caught in spam filters.
  • There’s no danger of the above BCC and Reply-All scenario.

Of course, individual emails take more time because you have to click compose, paste the barebone message, personalize it and hit Send several times. But as discussed, the outcome could be better than with pure BCC messages. Thus, I am a strong advocate of personalized messages. Are you?

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