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How to email undisclosed recipients using Gmail

Updated on December 9, 2010

Undisclosed recipient lists are a very powerful feature of an email client, but perhaps one that only the power user generally knows about. Why would you want to send a message to undisclosed recipients? Well, the reasons are plentiful and varied, but to understand you need to know what it means.

Often in business, and sometimes in our personal lives, it is necessary to send an email to a large number of people. While many might immediately put all the names into the "to" field, or perhaps the "cc" field, the problem with this is that it exposes the addresses to everyone who receives the email. If you are a business then you can get into a lot of trouble for letting people see the address list of your customers, and if you do this to your friends you stand a chance of annoying them. If other people get their email address they may use it, when you purposefully hadn't given it out. Worse, many trojans and viruses target the address list of users' computers and so an ill advised formatting error could lead to your email recipients getting a lot more than they bargained for.

The key to avoiding such a disaster is to use the BBC field. CC stands for "carbon copy" and stems from the days where a secretary might put carbon paper into the typewriter to produce an exact replica of a letter and send it to a second person. When email came around, it became possible to send one "letter" to vast numbers of people but the term stuck. BCC stands for "blind carbon copy" and that blindness is what you want to achieve. When you BCC a message each individual gets the email, but none of them have any idea who else received it. In fact, they may not even know they weren't the only recipient.

If you use gmail to email people in this way, you can choose to put a single address in the "to" field, or to leave it blank. If you leave it blank, the recipients will see that it was sent to "undisclosed recipients".

Another powerful feature in gmail is the contacts list. You can set up all the details of the people you know in there, making it easier to add them to the "to", "cc" or "bcc" fields when you send a message. Better still, you can arrange your contacts into groups, and if you regularly want to blind copy the same individuals on messages this is an excellent idea. Here's the step by step detail on how:

  • Go to "contacts" in the leftmost navigation options on the page.
  • Tick the checkbox next to the people you want added to your list.
  • Click the "groups" button at the top of the screen and create a new group with an appropriate name by typing it into the box and then clicking "accept".

All the people you chose should now have the list name in a label attached to their contacts entry, displayed at the right of the screen. You can adjust the list whenever you like using the "groups" button again, so you can add and remove people at will.

When you want to send an email to the entire list, compose it as usual in the email page, but instead of putting anyone in the "to" box, click the "bcc" option below it. The first time you click it a new box appears. Click it again for a popup list of your contacts. There is a drop down list here that will let you select the list you created earlier. Choose "all" when given the option, and everyone you have in your list will be added to the BCC field for your message.

Hit "send" like you usually would, and you're done! One email, one list, nobody any the wiser about everyone else's email addresses.


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      ROSE 6 years ago

      When i send email from my yahoo to Gmail on BCC, to all the people and to my 3emails, the adresses appear.. wow.. no privacy? why is that? BCC means privacy.. please help