L'Ombre de l'Olivier

The Shadow of the Olive Tree

being the maunderings of an Englishman on the Côte d'Azur

26 September 2006 Blog Home : September 2006 : Permalink

Email Confidentiality

One of the minor issuettes of the email world is how easy it is to send the wrong email to the wrong audience. Everyone knows about the deadly "Reply All" error and the related multiply forwarded email that ends up being laughed at by zillions of total strangers. Today I got a great example of how these two can combine to void NDAs (Non Disclosure Agreements) and aid in the dissemination of comemrcially sensitive info.

One of my clients is attempting to sell some stuff to a large telecoms/datacoms firm (no names, no packdrill) and I've been involved in the presales process. We've exchnaged NDAs and are busily emailing replies to questions about roadmaps etc. etc. and I've been making sure my client gets the balance right in his desire to sell more stuff and his desire not to spill the beans on everything he hopes to do in the next decade to someone who might end up being part competition. This latter fear was caused by some rather odd questions being asked that sounded more like probing by a competitor than the desire of a customer. Well we've figured out why these questions have been asked today because the large datacom firm purchasing manager managed to CC us on the internal email he should have been sending to the technical decision makers with in the firm. The email he sent is perfectly innocuous - just askign for pricing quotes for kit plus maintenance and so on, no doubt why he CCed us, but it's a reply to an email that contains the competitve feature analysis by the techs of my client's product and a product we did not know about which is being made by a competitor.

As a result we get to learn about the existence of this competing product. And hence I think someone just violated their NDA because the copetitor's product, like ours, is clearly not publically annouced and thus one for which information is available solely under NDA. In this case it probably isn't a really big deal. I imagine the competitor is going to be announcing the product at a trade show coming soon and anyway the specific product isn't exactly destined to be a big seller - the addressable market for our products is a handful of datacom/telecom players who are unlikely to buy more than a couple of million dollars worth each - but if this happened to us it could happen to the guy who sources the next GPS HDTV equipped iPod or whatever with something critical and that contract could be worth hundreds of millions. If its some startup against an established giant then the release of this info in the wrong direction could easily result in the nipper going out of business instead of making a blockbuster IPO... and it would be next to impossible to know that such a leak - entirely inadvertant in any case - was the cause of the improved bid from the recipient of the leak.

I despise l'Escroc and Vile Pin