Over Confidential

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Being a litigious society, we have all received emails from lawyers that include signature sections with name, position, organization, street address, floor, suite, city/state/zip, email, fax, phone, favorite non-profit or case, favorite quote, serial number, favorite cereal, and so on. That’s lots of information to share, but below it is 15 miles of confidentiality verbiage as to why this is protected, privileged, blahblahblah communication.

It makes you laugh in the private sector, but it’s not something you expect in the public sector. Let me share two items I noticed just this morning in various communications with our public servants (state and local):

CONFIDENTIALITY NOTICE: This electronic transmission is for the intended recipient only and may contain information that is privileged, confidential, or otherwise protected from disclosure. Any review, dissemination, or use of this transmission or any of its contents by persons other than the intended recipient is strictly prohibited. If you receive this transmission in error, please notify the sender immediately upon receipt and delete or destroy the communication and its attachments. Thank you for your cooperation.


The substance of this message, including any attachments, may be confidential, legally privileged and/or exempt from disclosure pursuant to Massachusetts law. It is intended solely for the addressee. If you received this in error, please contact the sender and delete the material from any computer.

I wonder if I have broken confidence by sharing the substance of these confidentiality blurbs! More seriously, as Pioneer, the media and every other organization out there that cares about transparency and the public trust knows all too well, Massachusetts governments are notorious for not sharing information. We are worse off for it — and it does nothing to build confidence in the workings of public servants.