Now, let’s address the other issue. With the release of thousands of embarrassing emails to President Obama, Hillary Clinton and her staff alongside the not too distant memory of embarrassing emails released about Sony executives and celebrities, will email conversations hush to a quiet?
While it’s not likely email will die, or go away entirely, senior executives will likely stop using email as a means of conversation and dialogue. I anticipate we will see a return to actual phone calls and face-to-face meetings for important discussions and relationship building.
As cyber security experts know all too well, there is only so much that can be done to prevent a cyber attack. There are certainly best practices and mitigation plans and technology that can help to minimize this exposure, but if someone wants into your system badly enough, they will likely find a way to do it (or the right person to prey upon).
This realization will change the way many continue to use electronic communication. While in ligation lawyers often go to painstaking efforts to protect privileged communication from discovery or presentation in a lawsuit, the reality is if someone just wants to embarrass you, nothing will stop them from releasing it to the court of public opinion, who quite frankly doesn’t care if you think it was subject to some sort of legal privilege. It will be out there and the damage to your reputation, your company, and career will be done, forever.
So many of us have become accustomed to the idea that an email or text is a one-to-one communication, unlike social media which is one to many. We believe that these conversations are private. But if you’ve ever accidently replied to all or sent an email to the wrong person when autofill pulls up the wrong email, you’ve felt the horror of someone seeing something they shouldn’t have seen. Now imagine that same communication out to the entire world. Savvy executives will simply stop using email for actual conversations, dialogue, opinions or anything other than benign schedule setting or simple messages that you wouldn’t care if the whole world knew you sent.
We may see a return to the custom of picking up the phone and speaking to someone or scheduling a face-to-face lunch where the real conversation can occur without the risk of that conversation being read by millions possibly months or years later. And, is that such a bad thing? It takes a little more work to make a phone call, but don’t you get so much more out of it? And, face to face meetings might require a little more effort and sometimes travel, but doesn’t it make for a richer and more meaningful discussion and relationship? These are things we have sacrificed for speed and convenience.
Interestingly, the millennial generation may not feel the impact like those of us in Gen X, Gen Y or Baby Boomers. Millennials never built the habit of using email for conversations, however their use of social media could eventually suffer the same fate as they begin to realize the negative impact their one-to-many conversations have as their lives and careers progress. What is acceptable at 22 is not so much at 32 or 42, but with social media, it’s all just out there to be found and used against you when someone needs to find a reason. Think of how these emails have been used against senior executives and politicians in just the last few years. Social media history will ultimately be the same, only rather than because of a hack, these are messages users have intentionally and willingly posted to the masses. There’s a lot to unpack here between emails and use of social media. C-Suite Execs and Board members should heed the warning and carefully consider how email is used and best practices to protect yourself and your company.