eDiscovery Daily Blog

Those Pesky Email Signatures and Disclaimers – eDiscovery Best Practices


Are email signatures and disclaimers causing more trouble than they’re worth?  According to one author, perhaps they are.

Earlier this week, Jeff Bennion wrote an interesting post on the Above the Law blog (‘Please Consider the Environment Before Printing’ Email Signatures Are Hurting the Environment) where he noted that, about 5 years ago, people started putting ‘Please consider the environment before printing this e-mail’ in their email signature (along with a webdings font character of a tree).

Bennion states that this is “the Kony 2012 of the environmental battles – it’s a noble war, but a pointless battle” and that the printing of emails is only a tiny fraction of the paper that lawyers waste.  Instead, he notes, “the ‘please consider the environment’ email signature is more like one of those ‘I voted’ stickers — both serve no purpose other than proclaiming your self-righteousness for performing a civic duty”.

In fact, per a Time magazine article, the internet accounts for a good deal of the pollution in the world. In a 2011 article, cleantechnica.com reported that there were about 500,000 data centers in the world and each used 10 megawatts of energy a month.  That’s a lot more than 1.21 gigawatts.  Great Scott!

When comparing Word files containing data that might go into an email with the same data that also includes the email signature, Bennion observes that the one with the email signature contains .3 KB more of data than the one without the signature.  He extrapolates that out to 27,000 GB of extra useless data being added to internet storage servers every day (10 million GB per year) over all business emails, while acknowledging that not all 90 billion business emails are including the signature.  “The point is that it is a pointless gesture that, as a whole, does more harm than good”, Bennion states.

And, the same holds true for those confidential and privileged email disclaimers at the bottom of emails, which he observes “take up about 10-20 times more wasted space than the ‘please stop printing your emails’ disclaimer” – “roughly the environmental equivalent of clubbing 3 baby seals a month”.  Some interesting takes.

These email signatures and disclaimers also affect eDiscovery costs, both in terms of extra data to process and also host.  They can also lead to false hits when searching text and affect conceptual clustering or predictive coding of documents (which are based on text content of the documents) unless steps are taken to remove those from indices and ignore the text when performing those processes.  All of which can lead to extra work and extra cost.

So, what do you think?  Do you use “please stop printing your emails” signatures and confidential and privileged email disclaimers?  Please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

Disclaimer: The views represented herein are exclusively the views of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views held by CloudNine Discovery. eDiscoveryDaily is made available by CloudNine Discovery solely for educational purposes to provide general information about general eDiscovery principles and not to provide specific legal advice applicable to any particular circumstance. eDiscoveryDaily should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a lawyer you have retained and who has agreed to represent you.