Senseless security

    How often have you seen a standard confidentiality disclaimer at the end of an email? An email I recently received ended with this:

    This email together with any attachment(s) is proprietary and confidential, intended for only the recipient(s) named above and contains information that is privileged. You are hereby notified that the dissemination, distribution or copying of this email or its contents including attachments is strictly prohibited. If you have received this email in error, or are not the named recipient(s), you are hereby notified that any review, dissemination, distribution or copying of this communication is prohibited by the sender and doing so constitutes a violation of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, 18 U.S.C. section 2510-2521. Although precautions have been taken to make sure no viruses are present in this email, [company name] cannot accept responsibility for any loss or damage that may arise from the use of this email or attachment(s).

    Even a simpler version, which appeared in an email I received while writing this, is a problem.

    The information contained in this message is privileged and intended only for the recipients named. If the reader is not a representative of the intended recipient, any review, dissemination or copying of this message of the information it contains is prohibited. If you have received this message in error, please immediately notify the sender, and delete the original message and attachments.

    I'm sure some legal department came up with these disclaimers and insisted they be included in every email, even though compliance with them interferes with marketing and use of their products. In both of the above examples, the email had information the senders expected me to pass on to the other specifiers as well as to our interior design group.

    That's often the case; the senders don't say it, but they will be pleased if the information is passed on to others. Yet the disclaimer specifically prohibits that; in fact, it essentially says I can't even talk about it. Not only that, but it states that by doing anything other than deleting the email, I am breaking a law.

    This is bad enough when the email does contain product information (though if it's on the company website, what's the point of the disclaimer?), but it becomes ludicrous when it follows casual email.

    Joe: What are you doing for lunch today? Do you think Bob will want to join us?

    This message and its contents are confidential and are intended only for the recipient. Do not copy or send it to others.

    Or a joke. Occasionally, a friend sends collections of funny photos and videos (safe for work variety), clever sayings, and other amusing things found online. All are followed by his agency's standard disclaimer.

    I can't help but wonder what the legal impact is of a disclaimer that is appended to every email regardless of content. I found several opinions online, most of which agree that in most cases, the disclaimer is meaningless, the exceptions being for an email from attorneys or others whose messages are legally considered privileged communication.

    Email Confidentiality Disclaimers: Annoying but Are The Legally Binding? "Dropping a standard confidentiality disclaimer at the bottom of every company email doesn’t unilaterally force on a recipient any duty of confidentiality. In other words, this disclaimer is of no legal effect."

    Spare us the e-mail yada-yada "Lawyers and experts on internet policy say no court case has ever turned on the presence or absence of such an automatic e-mail footer in America, the most litigious of rich countries." 

    Blind copying

    On a related matter, many manufacturers' representatives send email using blind copy lists. Such information would be useful to the other specifiers, and to various other staff as well. Again, I know the senders would like me to pass their email on, but without knowing whom they sent it to, I am reluctant to forward it, as I know I will send to people who already have the email.

    I understand the value of blind copying, and I encourage its use. If a manufacturer's representative wants to send something to a hundred specifiers, none of them will want to see the lengthy "to" list. It would be better for those on the receiving end if the rep were to send to people in a single company with the recipients visible.

    The ultimate disclaimer

    Scanning through my own email, I found several disclaimers that exceeded 100 words, and one of 238 words. Which led me to wonder, "What is the longest disclaimer?" I've seen fake disclaimers of several hundred words, and many years ago, inspired by a particularly verbose disclaimer, I assembled one that is about 1,400 words. 

    But for real email disclaimers written by companies, there are some doozies, including one that ran to more than 1,000 words. ( What's the longest one you've seen?


    Email Confidentiality Disclaimers: Annoying but Are The Legally Binding?

    Spare us the e-mail yada-yada

    The information contained in this article is intended only for anyone who happens to read it. If received in error, failure to forward it to everyone on your contact list is prohibited. After reading, please delete all files, reformat all drives, and immediately take your computer to the nearest LEED-certified incineration plant for disposal according to local ordinances. Upon completion, go directly to the local office of MiB (Men in Black) for neuralyzer treatment.

    © 2017, Sheldon Wolfe, RA, FCSI, CCS, CCCA, CSC

    Agree? Disagree? Leave your comments at

    Project management and BIM

    by Norman F. Jacobs, Jr., CSI Emeritus, PMI, SAR, ASPE, CPE, AACE, IIE

    Building information modeling (BIM) offers a way of delivering projects in a collaborative and less fragmented fashion. 
    Photo © BigStockPhoto

    Building information modeling (BIM) is a dynamic tool to assist all contract parties in better coordinating each and every phase of construction. The industry is fragmented when it comes to proper communications. The project manager needs to critique the ‘enigma’ of asymmetric information.

    Productivity is at a low and needs to be improved. Fragmentation has a cost—it traps the industry in conservative practices, limiting the spread of any new learning. These divisions also directly increase the risk of miscommunication or failure to coordinate between the multiple players working on a building site. In turn, this increases the owner’s risk of additional costs and delays.

    A portion of money spent on construction labor is wasted because of late deliveries, poorly coordinated subcontractors, updated critical path method (CPM) schedules, and other circumstances preventing employees from engaging in productive, onsite work. A complete examination of BIM can help solve these problems.

    BIM is the process of using three-dimensional (3D) modeling technology for creating, communicating, and reviewing building information. The next step in the evolution of the design and construction process, it offers a better way of delivering projects in a collaborative and less fragmented fashion that blurs the line between design and construction. BIM also holds the potential for immediate quantity survey, identification of conflicts and omissions, and fewer change orders, project delays, and cost overruns, as well as more clearly defined and shared accountability, risk, and reward.

    Using BIM requires an in-depth critique of all construction documents. The industry is now fully moving into an environment where significant projects are built with BIM technology and/or managed with integrated project delivery mechanisms. Sophisticated owners are demanding both, yet few understand exactly what they are demanding.

    As the industry steps through the learning process, it is imperative owners and industry professionals look carefully at associated legal and risk issues. BIM’s dramatic shift in how information is gathered and shared, and the principles of collaboration and interoperability on which it is based, meld the traditionally distinct separation of roles among stakeholders in construction projects. BIM contract documents take on an ever-more-important role.

    BIM can help solve problems such as late deliveries and poor coordination. 
    Photo © BigStockPhoto

    American Institute of Architects (AIA) and Associated General Contractors (AGC) are working on addendums to their standard contract documents. This will provide a tool to utilize BIM from start to finish, thereby allowing users to more closely integrate project delivery with owners and design professionals. It is also flexible enough to be used as an addendum in more traditional contracting methods. Technology improvements and integration fostered by the expanded use of BIM are dramatically increasing efficiency in the industry.

    It is important for all project managers to review and critique all BIM software. Each and every contract party should understand all factors influencing the use of BIM, which offers benefits including:

    • less time spent drafting and more time designing;
    • owners demanding BIM in their projects;
    • parametric modifications to design;
    • opportunities to reduce construction cost, risk, and insurance claims; and
    • improved interoperability, document version control, scheduling, budgeting, and cost estimates.


    Norman F. Jacobs, Jr.CSI Emeritus, PMI, SAR, ASPE, CPE, AACE, IIE, formed Jacobs Consultant Services in 1981 to provide a variety of construction services including cost management, schedule control assistance, project management, and claims preparation and negotiation. Prior to this, Jacobs provided design-build, construction management, and general contracting services for more than 30 years, in a variety of capacities ranging from estimator to president and board member. He has chaired Virginia’s Associated General Contractors (AGC) Documents Committee, has presented seminars on construction legal subjects with the Virginia Bar Legal Committee, and is a past-president of the CSI Richmond Chapter. Jacobs can be reached via e-mail at [email protected]