Microsoft

Send a message to several people without revealing their identities to one another

You can create a distribution list to protect the privacy of your recipients, but there's a quicker way if the message is a one-time effort.

When you send an E-mail message to the same group of people, frequently, you probably create a distribution list. Then, you specify the list instead of all the individual addresses. A list is more efficient than specifying each recipient for each message.

A list has a second benefit: It protects the identity of each recipient.

Now, if you happen to be sending just one message to several people but you want to protect their identities, you might create a distribution list, but doing so would be overkill. You don't need a list at all. If you want to send a message to more than one person while protecting the identify of each recipient, send the message to yourself and enter the real recipients in the Bcc control. Bcc stands for blind carbon copy—it's a throwback to the stone age… I mean… an earlier time when people still used typewriters and carbon paper to send letters.  Any recipient entered via the Bcc control will have complete anonymity—no other recipient will see any other names or addresses.

Bcc a quick and easy alternative to creating a distribution list when you'll never use the list again.

Can't find the Bcc control?

If the Bcc box isn't visible in Outlook 2007, click the Message Options tab and click Show Bcc in the Fields group.

About

Susan Sales Harkins is an IT consultant, specializing in desktop solutions. Previously, she was editor in chief for The Cobb Group, the world's largest publisher of technical journals.

27 comments
Zoe Gonya
Zoe Gonya

*Because privacy is still the most important aspect to consider when you care for others and know when to make the right decisions on information that can be distorted so easily.

stapleb
stapleb

I use BCC all the time. Most of my emails contain external addresses and I feel it is my responsibility to protect everyone's privacy. I find that I do not have to put a name in the To: field - I'm using Outlook 2007, but the same applied to Outlook XP and 2003. If I'm forwarding I also remove all names from the message as again it is my responsibility to ensure protection of privacy.

rsbrux
rsbrux

In my experience, BCC is safer than a distribution list. I have had Outlook 2000 expand my distribution list to a list of addresses upon sending, so if I use a confidential distribution list, I put the list in BCC. Without having done exhaustive testing, I think it may work like this: If your distribution list is (Exchange) server based, then the receiver will only see the name of the list. Of course, if they are on the same Exchange server, chances are they can still open the list and see its contents. If you are running Outlook 2000 stand-alone, connected to an external SMTP server, then the list will be expanded for sending. Does anyone know whether this behaviour is different for Outlook 2003 or 2007?

Daniel Breslauer
Daniel Breslauer

I don't think anyone here does NOT know what Bcc is, so this post is pretty much useless - it's as if you're telling us how to shut down Windows.

dobirds
dobirds

I have been using the Bcc tactic for all of my forwarding messages and any time I want to protect the identity of people with whom I communicate often. I also remove the content from previous forwarded emails when other people did NOT use BCC for the same reason. I cannot count how many people I have suggested this method to. It is affirming to see it here too. Thanks for the tips and the reasoning behind them.

alfred.nims
alfred.nims

I use distribution lists and then put that in the BCC field. Believe it or not I have recently showed users how to display the BCC, since it is hidden by default now and to use it. For me it's more of protecting others privacy than anything else.

awgiedawgie
awgiedawgie

Other users should only be able to open the distribution list if it is a public list. I also have not done a lot of testing, so I don't know if a private list on Exchange still shows only the name of the list, or if it expands into individual names like it does with an SMTP server. Either way, you are quite correct - BCC is definitely more secure than using a dist list. Sorry I can't offer an answer on Office 2003 or 2007. I never upgraded to 2003 because 2000 has all I need, and I messed around for a day or two with the trial copy of Office 2007 that came with my new laptop, and promptly decided that I don't like the new interface. And Office 2000 still has everything I need, so why spend $600 upgrading to something I neither want nor need? I imagine that same rationale will hold true for Office 2010.

bunitt
bunitt

I've been using Properties for years to see who else gets the same emails I do.

JazzySnazzy
JazzySnazzy

Come one. If this is not what you need then why read it and waste time replying to it? I am sick and tired of this arrogance in IT. Go read something else.

awgiedawgie
awgiedawgie

I know of several people who have subscribed to TechRepublic to increase their tech knowledge, so their may be plenty of people who don't know about BCC. And if that option is hidden by default, they may not have any idea that their mail client even supports it, much less know how to activate it. Yes, for most of our readers, BCC is as natural as eating and drinking, but someone like my Mom would still be sending out messages to a dozen people individually had I not shown her how to use BCC.

Tink!
Tink!

Since most of us already know about BCC, let us ask the question of how to teach our [b]Users[/b] to [i]REMEMBER[/i] to use the BCC. I know I've taught several people this, including my children's teachers, friends and online acquaintances. I do still have to remind people every once in a while.

hariks0
hariks0

One can use mail merge to send the same mail to multiple users in customized fashion. The Salutation can contain the name of the receiver, the To field will have only this receiver mail id etc. The downsides are no support of attachment, individual mails in the Sent Items Folder of outlook etc.

ian3880
ian3880

Anyone who has a browser that can "show headers" will be able to see all the multiple Bcc addresses.

gcattley
gcattley

By typing email addresses into the TO: field, you can send electronic mail to your friends and co-workers! Sorry. I've worked as a technical journalist for over 10 years, and know what it's like to be desperately short of something to write about, but the BCC field? give us a break.

Amnezia
Amnezia

> And once XP ceases to hold any attraction for hackers, it'll be as "safe" as Linux or OSX. I DO like your thinking - after all, don't we "upgrade" 'cause WE want/need to, and not because someone else thinks so? This upgrading lark does annoy me.

lelerew
lelerew

It's rude to look under the skirt even when you can.

awgiedawgie
awgiedawgie

BCC is intended to conceal the name(s) of those receiving the message, so if it doesn't, it must depend on the client you used to send the email. I would think there would be some form of liability involved when a user thinks they are sending blind copies, but then everyone can see who all got it. And if you are the one sending such messages, you should be having a conversation with your mail client's help desk ASAP. I have been using Outlook 2000 for my emails since its birth ten years ago, attached to both an Exchange server, and to a DSL connection, running (separately) on a total of six different computers and three different versions of Windows. Anytime I have wanted to conceal my recipients, I put my own address in the TO: field, and the recipients in the BCC: field. (I have seen some people who leave the TO: and CC: fields blank, but some email servers balk at blank TO: fields.) The message I then receive from myself has no trace of any of the other names, even when I do open the full headers, while the one that is in my Sent Items box shows me the BCC: field with all of the names, and if I used a distribution list, it has been expanded into all the individual names within it. That way I can pull up the message I sent to find out to whom I originally sent it. These days I don't send out anything sensitive, so I use the BCC: field more as a courtesy, after getting a few replies requesting it, since my most-often used distribution list contains nearly 100 addresses, and they didn't want to have to wade through all those addresses to get to the message.

awgiedawgie
awgiedawgie

... but respect them as well. AND respect your fellow writers. It is dangerous and generally unwise to refer to other writers as desperate based on their subject matter. Demeaning and belittling colleagues is fine if you want to make enemies, but it's not a good way to make friends, nor does it contribute anything to the discussion. Your remark "Give us a break" sounds like you assume that all the readers are on the same level as you, or at least close to it. If you write for a publication that caters to the elite upper crust, then it's reasonable to assume a certain level of proficiency among your readers. But an online publication like TechRepublic has a very broad readership, so it needs an equally broad subject base. Something like Bcc may be common sense and second nature to you and me, but it might as well be advanced theoretical physics to someone with only a rudimentary knowledge of computers. You have to include these IT-101 topics if you want to attract those readers.

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

As one of the Senior Editors here at TechRepublic I would be happy to pay you to write for us, assuming you are what you say you are. Send me a proposal. As for your comments about the nature of this tip, take a look at the discussion thread. Notice how many readers appreciate the tip, how many are discussing its pros and cons? We reach a very broad audience so we cover a broad range of topics and technical levels. You might want to keep that in mind if you make a proposal - I'll expect you to know your audience.

awgiedawgie
awgiedawgie

With as many times I see Linux or OSX users heralding how much better and more dependable their OS is over Windows, I think the hackers are going to start going more after them, simply because they seem to think that their Linux or OSX is invulnerable to harm, so their guard is down. It is for that reason I urged my brother to install anti-malware on his new MacBook. And to upgrading: I only upgraded from Windows XP to Vista because it was already installed on my laptop. My tower is perfectly happy still running XP. When I started using Office 2000, my computer was still running Windows 95! As far as any other software is concerned, if at all possible, I will download the entire installation package for whatever program, as opposed to simply downloading a small install engine that would then download the real files. If I have the entire package, I don't have to worry if they drop the version I am still contentedly using, and then I find myself needing to re-install it. For email (since that IS the main topic here, I suppose I should address it), Outlook has functioned and looked very much the same from 95 to 2000, then with Outlook XP and 2003, it started to change. I only have a very little exposure to any Office version beyond 2000, but the BCC field has always started out hidden with every version as far back as I can remember, and from what others have said, it is still hidden by default in all versions of Outlook thru 2007. With as many times as I have told people how to activate it, and with its being so useful, I should think MS would have it visible by default, and have an option to hide it. Or better yet, just have it visible - period.

gcattley
gcattley

Looking at the comments this article has generated, I'd say that everyone who has posted already knows about BCC. What this article HAS done is to start a conversation on the merits and security aspects of BCC and suggested possible alternatives - information and opinions that I would not have had were I not to subscribe to Tech Republic. Maybe I should re-evaluate what TR actually is: a gestalt of technical minds working on a particular topic. If the original article doesn't provide me with new knowledge, it doesn't matter - the following conversations are more than likely to provide something new. And that's a valuable resource.