Off The Record

There was a Presidential Debate last night.  One of the remarkable things about the debate, and the campaign, is how much time has been spent have defended old emails and old videos.  Both candidates recorded things years ago that are now coming back to haunt them.

I am glad that I am not running for office.


I’m going to say something here, and you may not like it.  But I believe it to be true:  All of our emails, both personal and professional, are saved.  This I know to be true.  Most of our telephone communication can be digitized and analyzed electronically.  Allow me to explain.


Last week, Yahoo admitted that they had been scanning the email of all of their users at the request of U.S. intelligence services.  I waited for other email providers to denounce this practice.  None did.  The silence was deafening.

All of our email is stored someplace.  Every email that we create, both at work and at home, is stored on a server.  If I send you a quick email, and you delete it and I delete it, it is still stored on a server someplace.

The email that you create and receive is stored.  If you don’t believe me, ask an IT friend or colleague.  Everything is stored and backed up.  It can be retrieved later on, for a variety of reasons.


I used to work at a company where someone wrote an email.  At the time, I’m sure she didn’t think it was so bad.  She was having a bad day, and she complained about something to a colleague.  But her complaint was written on a day when the company was going through a public health crisis.

Plaintiffs attorneys obtained her email during a discovery process, and her email was used in several lawsuits.   Many of the lawsuits (class action) resulted in damages of tens of millions of dollars.

I have taken several communications training courses.  One of the classic principles in those training courses is to pretend that the email I am about to write is going to appear on the front page of the newspaper tomorrow.  Would I still be comfortable sending that email?


Email isn’t the only thing that we are able store and scan.  I have a friend who works for a company that digitizes telephone calls.  Telephone calls are converted to text, and stored.  The text can then be scanned, for a variety of reasons.   You consent to this activity every time you call a customer service center (“your call may be recorded for customer training”).

Since the technology exists to record telephone calls, digitize them, and then analyze them as text in computers… you think it might be possible that this technology is being used for things other than customer training?

I’m just saying…..


Much of what we do with our smartphones and our computers is saved, whether we like it or not.  The idea that an email is “my email” or a phone call is “my phone call” doesn’t exist anymore.  I use public networks to send email and phone calls, and as a result, the companies that host those networks have access to my information.



I sometimes read articles in newspapers and magazines where the authors use an expression:  “off the record”.  Their sources, in an effort to maintain anonymity, request that certain discussion points not be attributed to a source.  In other words, people ask if their conversation can be “off the record”.  There isn’t much left that is off the record.

Just ask Hillary and Donald.




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