6A Lack of Ethics that Disrupts E-mail Communication

6.1. There is a new behavior behind every technical asset

Electronic mail was one of the very first I nternet-based communication tools and its conception reflects the prevailing sense of community at that time, during the 1970s. It is not a robust system featuring strong security mechanisms.

This is why both the e-mail envelope and the e-mail body are easy to manipulate and modify. Practice shows that users take advantage of (and abuse) the opportunities available for altering both the envelope (list of recipients, time stamp, sender’s address, etc.), and the content (erroneous or truncated quotations, time stamp of received messages, etc.).

Langford [LAN 96] mentions that “what is ethically appropriate must reflect what is technically possible” and it turns out that the technical characteristics of e-mail offer a practically unlimited area for all sorts of unethical behaviors, starting from sending “harmless” jokes that flood a company network and up to organized crime, or from a sheer waste of time and up to friendly, or aggressive, spam.

It should be noted that the users’ lack of experience with this relatively recent communication tool has brought about new behaviors that are sometimes inappropriate for a modern company, in which interpersonal communication plays a central role, and where flattened hierarchy patterns, peer networks and horizontal collaboration are predominant and they require that all stakeholders including ...

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