Consider this situation. You have a bunch of customers that you want to send an email message. For example a newsletter. You do not want each recipient to see who else you have sent the email to. There are a few ways to send e-mails. Let’s dig into what we have…
Using the “TO” field:
You could of course just add all the recipients e-mail addresses to the “to” field in a new message like this:
As you can see this will let all the recipients see the e-mail addresses of all the other recipients which is probably not what you want. Unless you want it. The recipient will get an e-mail like this, where he/she can see the email addresses of all the other recipients.
You should only use this option if you actually want the recipients to be able to see each others e-mail addresses.
Technically using “CC” is actually exactly the same as using the “to” field. The only difference is that the recipients e-mail will be displayed in the CC field, letting the receiver know that he/she have just received a copy of the e-mail at hand. In modern terms CC just means copy. Most people use this as a way of letting the receiver know that this is just an FYI. Just remember that (as with the “TO” field) the receiver can see all the receivers e-mail addresses. So be careful when using this!
The receivers e-mail, including any other recievers email will be displayed in the CC field.
BCC stands for “blind carbon copy” and should be used when you do not want the receivers to see each others email addresses. The receiver will actually not even see their own e-mail address in the TO field, but the senders e-mail address. If the reciever replies to the message using “reply all” he will only reply to the sender of the message.
As you can see the receiver will not be able to see who else got this email message. However the reciever can assume that the sender has used the BCC option because the “TO” field contains the senders e-mail address, not the receivers, as it normally would. Therefore the receiver can assume that other people have also received the same e-mail.
In other words you should use this option if you want to keep the receivers unaware of the other receivers addresses, but aware of the fact that you are using BCC.
The danger of using BCC
Don’t ever use BCC for backbiting!
The real danger of using BCC is not the use itself, but when someone decides to reply. Consider this situation. Your collegue Rick has been breaking policy at work. You write an e-mail to him warning him about the gravity of the situation. At the same time you also put HR in the BCC to let them know.
Rick receives the message and he cannot see that you have sent a BCC to HR.
HR gets the BCC’ed message and wants to reply to you without letting Rick know. However they accidentally hit the “reply all” button.
Rick receives the message from HR (that was only intended for you) and gets mad and now the situation gets super awkward…
So even if you think you have control over who can see what, the BCC’ed recipient can reveal the information. if you want to keep a secret is a bad idea.
Keep BCC for newsletters, invitations and generally one-way communication and you will be fine.