We regularly receive reports of emails being misdirected, resulting in personal information being accidentally shared. The numbers of incidents being reported at the University have risen recently and whilst it is good that these are being reported, it would be even better if we could drive the numbers down though the careful use of email.  The cause of email being misdirected is almost always the sender being busy or distracted.  Please take time to check the ‘To’, ‘CC’ and ‘BCC’ lines in an email carefully before you hit send.

One easy way to try to negate the issue of email misdirection is to remove the auto-complete function in Outlook.  Outlook often auto-completes an email address for you once you start typing a name into the email in the ‘To’, ‘CC’ or ‘BCC’ boxes.  Unfortunately, this makes it all too easy to select the incorrect recipient.  In view of this some people find it easier to turn this functionality off.  If you would like to do this, here’s how:

  1. In Outlook 2010/2013/2016 click the File menu and select Options.
  2. In the Outlook options window click the Mail tab.
  3. Scroll down to Send messages.
  4. Uncheck the Use the AutoComplete List to suggest names when typing in the To, CC and BCC lines.
  5. Click on OK.

Once the function is turned off, to add recipient names to an email you can do either of the following:

  1. Click on ‘To’ (or ‘CC’ or ‘BCC’) and type the name into the box that comes up.  You will then be able to manually select the correct recipient
  2. Type the surname of the person that you are looking for into the box and then click on the down arrow on the Names box and then click on check names.  You can also turn the check names option on via Options, Send messages and then tick Automatic name checking.

If you would prefer to use the auto-complete function, please can we remind you to clear the cached names occasionally to avoid sending emails to out of date email addresses. You can do this via Options, Send messages and then click on the box that says empty auto complete list.

When sending information via email, staff and students should always:

  • Consider if email is the best communication method
  • Consider whether the email is going to just one person; if so, has the correct recipient been selected from the email directory or address book?
  • Consider whether to use the ‘reply all’ function.  If so, does every person on the list need to receive the reply and any attachment?
  • Carefully check the recipients of all emails before you hit ‘Send’, regardless of content. Staff members should be extra vigilant where personal, sensitive personal or confidential information is included.
  • Delete emails once the conversation is no longer live, or archive them for future reference if you need to. 
  • Password protect the contents/attachments of any email when sending sensitive/confidential/ special categories of data or find an alternative method of relaying the information securely (such as using ZendTo, the University’s secure file-sharing service)
  • Take extra care when using email distribution lists to ensure that you have selected the right one.  It’s always best to double-check which distribution list you have selected to ensure that you reach the right group.

Find out more about Sharing information safely through email.

For help and support with any data protection related matters please contact the Information Assurance Team.