I’m sure most people receiving email from companies, sooner or later receive one with a legal disclaimer or warning on the end of dire legal consequences if you use or even look at the email in the wrong way. They go something like the following (names have been changed):
Attention: This e-mail message, including any attachment(s) (collectively the "e-mail"), has been sent by ACME Drinking Water and Porta-John Recycling Co. and may contain PRIVILEGED AND CONFIDENTIAL INFORMATION. If you are not the intended recipient, then please (i) do not read this e-mail, (ii) do not forward, print, copy or otherwise disseminate this e-mail, (iii) notify us of the error by a reply to this e-mail and (iv) delete this e-mail from your computer. Thank you.
This has to be one of the most worthless legal statements ever written. The first problem is that this statement is almost always found at the end of the email, and is sure to be read only after reading the contents of the email (i). Nearly anything I do to the email will break (ii), deleting it will copy it to the deleted folder (iv), replying (iii) will copy it to the sent folder, not to mention the multiple copies made since I check email from multiple computers and the copy that remains on the server and in the ISP’s backups. And let us not forget the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, it requires that email be backed up in public companies. I’m also not sure if one could legally be bound to such a statement without agreeing to it first or a method of opting out before breaching the statement is available (as is often done with software licenses).
Of course, none of the statement is valid unless ‘you are not the intended recipient’. Of course, since the email came to my inbox, and is stamped at the top with my email address, the only logical conclusion is that it was intended for me. Other than the address, I can’t possibly guess what the actual intent of the sender was. Even if the email says ‘Dear Anne’ at the top (obviously not me), the sender may be forwarding a message they thought I may be interested in. How could I guess the ‘intent’ was anything other than for me to receive the email?
Personally I find every email I receive with such a statement rather humorous and I’m really tempted to forward every one I receive to the media (after all, as the intended recipient I can use it as I see fit). But if you do business with any company that uses such a statement thinking it gives them any security or expectation of privacy, I would be worried.