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Pandora's (Mail)box

This month's editorial on e-mail communications by Katherine Burger, Editorial Director.

Remember life before e-mail? It's hard to imagine how we did our jobs without this simple but powerful communications tool. But, inevitably, as with any technological advance, complications have emerged-some just annoying, others of potentially greater significance.

In the annoying category is spam. The daily evidence in my e-mail in-box contradicts a recent Pew study, which found 60 percent of people who use e-mail at work receive 10 or fewer e-mail messages on an average day. Seventy-one percent of respondents said "only a little" of the work e-mail they receive is spam. However, 30 percent of all e-mail sent in November was spam, reports MessageLabs, a message filtering service,which also warned that by July spam will exceed legitimate e-mail traffic.

But experience tells me services such as MessageLabs' can be part of the problem. When our company implemented a filtering system, I saw no decrease in e-mails that promised to help me increase, decrease or otherwise transform various parts of my anatomy, and I still got poignant pleas from Nigerian students who desperately (and completely legitimately!) needed money. Yet, many real business communications from readers, vendors and other important contact6s were blocked because their e-mails contained words such as free, advisor, credit card, payment, even insurance. After my fifth or sixth inquiry about legitimate e-mail I never received, our e-mail manager hinted I could opt-out of the filtering system. Once I did so, both our lives became a little easier.

Still, my inconvenience is nothing compared to what financial institutions are facing when it comes to new requirements to monitor and archive their employees' e-mail communications. There's no return to life before e-mail, but maybe technology has made some things too easy.

Katherine Burger is Editorial Director of Bank Systems & Technology and Insurance & Technology, members of UBM TechWeb's InformationWeek Financial Services. She assumed leadership of Bank Systems & Technology in 2003 and of Insurance & Technology in 1991. In addition to ... View Full Bio

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