Make sure your emails do not land you in court


October 14 1999


E-mail has become a major communication tool and an important tool for commerce, with more than 12 billion e-mails transmitted each day worldwide.

But cases are emerging in which companies have defamed competitors through e-mail messages, and then had to pay out following legal action, because directors are legally liable for any communication associated with their company, including e-mail.

This means that if you run a business, lawyers could demand tamper-resistant records of e-mails sent and received in the past three years, and you could have to pay huge damages for criminal negligence if you can't show you have secure e-mail systems and records.

To help organizations ensure they have good practice standards for managing and storing electronic information, BSI has published a code of practice for electronic documents as legally admissible evidence. Its importance has been recognised by the UK government, which cites the BSI code in its own policy framework for the management of electronic records.

The BSI code of practice, PD 5000:1999, enables organizations to demonstrate the authenticity of their electronic documents and e-commerce transactions, so they can be used as legally admissible evidence.

PD 5000:1999 can help firms put management systems in place to show appropriate proof of:
* delivery of e-mail and attached documents
* authenticity and integrity of the messages
* the use of encryption to ensure message privacy.

The BSI code helps organizations introduce commonly understood frameworks or systems for managing communications, both internally and via third parties. It also covers any requirement to keep confirmations of receipt in a tamper-resistant storage system.