9 'reply all' email disasters

The recent Cornell email scandal may be the raunchiest in the history of CC snafus, but it certainly isn’t the first

Cornell University is tittering this week with the tale of the married Cornell University tech consultant who managed to CC the entire business school’s listserv on the X-rated email exchange he was having with his lover, a married colleague. (See the Cornell email exchange here – not suitable for work.) “It seems like a joke, but we assure you, this is real life,” says Guest of a Guest. “And it’s not pretty.”

Here, 8 more gaffes involving emails that were sent to many, but intended for few:

TO: Members of the media

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FROM: U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald

SUBJECT: Confidential Witnesses

On January 6, 2009, U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald attached the wrong document to a media briefing detailing felony charges against two men accused of $15 million in fraud – and inadvertently identified 24 confidential sources in the process. The Chicago Tribune and Smoking Gun broke the story. It’s a “remarkable screw-up,” the Smoking Gun noted.

“E-mail snafu exposes names of confidential witnesses”

TO: Members of the media

FROM: A press officer at Britain's Treasury

SUBJECT: Unfunny joke

When Treasury press officer Robbie Browse forwarded an email to a group of friends poking fun at the shape of Chinese people's eyes, he inadvertently cc'd several dozen prominent journalists. One replied, "“Will we all be invited to your leaving party?” Browse, in fact, kept his job, but issued a public apology.

"Treasury apologizes over racist email"

TO: All applicants

FROM: University of California at San Diego

SUBJECT: Congratulations!

Last March, the admission department at UCSD intended to send an congratulatory email to the 18,000 students it had accepted for the coming school year. Instead, the school sent note to all 47,000 people who applied -- including the nearly 30,000 who'd been rejected. “We recognized the incredible pain receiving this false encouragement caused," said the admissions director in her apology.

"UC San Diego sends wrong email to rejected students"

TO: Disgruntled customers

FROM: Ben Baldanza, CEO of Spirit Airlines

SUBJECT: Your horrible travel experience

After a couple wrote an email to several Spirit executives detailing a very bad trip they'd had on the airline, Baldaza replied to all (including to the customers who lodged the complaint): "We owe him nothing as far as I'm concerned. Let him tell the world how bad we are. He's never flown us before anyway and will be back when we save him a penny."

"Spirit CEO: We owe him nothing"

TO: White House Press Corps

FROM: White House Staffer

SUBJECT: White House Seder Dinner

A “sleep deprived” White House staffer mistakenly sent out an unedited draft of the April 9, 2009 daily schedule to the press corps. While the document contained no top-secret information, it did include some spirited back-and-forth about the evening’s Seder dinner.

“Oops! Obama’s press office has an e-mail snafu”

TO: Employees About to be Axed

FROM: Carat Media Agency

SUBJECT: You’re probably fired

Employees at Carat Media had an unexpected look at the inner workings of upper management in September 2008, when an e-mail detailing the parlance of layoffs was accidentally sent out to the entire company. According to US News, the document offered talking points designed to soften the blow, including the concept of “right-sizing” rather than downsizing.

“Staff learns of layoffs via e-mail mistake”

TO: Various Reporters

FROM: Senator Michael Bennet

SUBJECT: Anti-terrorism raids

Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet is a member of the Homeland Security Committee, but that couldn’t protect him from the dangers lurking in his inbox. Bennet’s press secretary accidentally forwarded the contents of an e-mail correspondence discussing the ongoing anti-terrorism investigation of a Colorado man suspected of ties to Al Qaeda. While the e-mail contained little confidential information, the incident was an embarrassment for the senator and his staff. “It could fuel the perception that he’s not ready for prime time,” said Politico.

“Bennet’s embarrassing e-mail”

TO: Conference Attendees

FROM: McAfee Internet Security

SUBJECT: All your private info

Earlier this year, e-mail security vendor McAfee compromised the cyber-safety of over 1400 conference-goers when the company accidentally attached a spreadsheet containing “the full registration database”--including names, contact information, employment history and even dietary requirements--to a note thanking everyone for their attendance.

“Oops, e-mail security vendor McAfee spills 1400 private names”

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