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What is a Blind Carbon Copy?

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  • Written By: Felicia Dye
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 05 December 2016
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Blind carbon copy, often shortened to BCC, can be a misleading term. Two reasons for this are because blind carbon copying does not involve carbon and it does not involve paper. BCC is a term that refers to an option available with most email applications. This option allows duplicate messages to be sent without sharing each recipient’s information with other recipients.

Carbon can be inserted between two pieces of paper. Doing this will allow information written on the top page to be copied onto the page beneath, hence the term carbon copy. When this term is used with reference to the Internet, however, carbon is not actually used. Instead, the method is completely electronic.

It should be noted that a carbon copy (CC) on the Internet is not the same as a blind carbon copy. The difference is that when a carbon copy is sent, all recipients can see the addresses of all of the other recipients. With a blind carbon copy, recipients cannot see any addresses that are listed in the BCC field. Recipients listed in the BCC can, however, see those listed in the TO and CC fields.

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The blind carbon copy field usually appears below the CC field in an email application. It may not automatically appear with the other options when a person opens a new email. In some cases, there will be a link or toggle switch that needs to be clicked to reveal the BCC field. It should be noted that such fields are rarely identified by the full term and a person should look for the abbreviation.

This field can be used like the other recipient fields. Multiple email addresses can be entered and are usually required to be separated by a comma. There is generally a maximum number of recipients that may be entered. Some email applications will not allow an email to be sent without at least one address listed in the main recipient field. When this is the case, it is nearly impossible to prevent the recipients from knowing they are receiving a copied document.

There are a number of reasons people use the blind carbon copy option. Some people are very concerned with protecting the privacy of others. They, therefore, use this option to prevent sharing the names and addresses of their recipients. In other cases, people may want to send a blind carbon copy to themselves without the primary recipient knowing.

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everetra
Post 4

@SkyWhisperer - It’s my understanding that the “carbon copy” has been superseded by the term “courtesy copy” in this Internet age. I think it makes more sense given that carbon is not being used anymore in that capacity.

SkyWhisperer
Post 3

@MrMoody - I think you’re treading into the domain known as email etiquette. There are practical reasons for using BCC. It makes for cleaner emails for one thing.

If I have a distribution list, do I really need to see everyone who is on that distribution? Maybe some people are just uncomfortable being visible to the whole world, like a new employee for example.

I am sure there are lots of examples where a BCC would come in handy and make sense. It does not imply nefarious purposes in all circumstances in my opinion.

MrMoody
Post 2

@David09 - I rarely use BCC in email communications. I’ve never found the need to. I suppose you could use it if you want a copy of the email sent to yourself, but in that case, I just CC myself.

In my opinion if you use this option you should use it sparingly or have a good reason to do it. To stick with your example, if the employee found out that the boss was being blind copied on many such emails, it would create some tension and mistrust in the employer and employee relationship, including with the project manager himself.

Who needs that? There is enough of that in the workplace as it is.

David09
Post 1

The use of undisclosed recipients is perfectly legal and is a good reason for you to do your job well and as transparently as people. It never pays to lie.

Let’s say that your boss was on the BCC line of an email sent to you by another employee, maybe your project manager. Then something bad happens and you drop the ball somewhere.

Your boss wants answers. You then use the tried and true, “I never got the memo” excuse. That will blow up in your face, because your boss was copied on that very memo, although you couldn’t see his name in the email.

See how it never pays to lie in this age of electronic communications? Just do your job, be honest, cover your tracks at all times and all will be well.

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