Occasionally I come across interesting tidbits of news. Then I usually turn to Twitter and share them. Today, I re-considered a piece that I had read a while back: email confidentiality notices are about as useful as letting your Hummer H1 idle all day. Basically, you can’t force someone into a contract after already providing the good or service. You could, possibly, send one email saying the contents in the next email are confidential, wait for a reply confirming that the other party agrees, then send the confidential stuff, but email isn’t confidential anyway.
According to a paper on energy usage when sending data published by IEEE (the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers, the people who set the standards for all networking equipment), 4kb of data requires about 3 joules of energy to send. As it so happens, the average of the last three confidentiality notes I’ve seen was 4kb. Sure, 3 joules is a drop in the bucket, but we sent 294 Billion emails every day in 2010. A mere 10% were real emails, the rest were spam, but if we assume 1/3 come with confidentiality notes, that’s 9.8 billion emails sent and received, or 8J per. Assuming it takes 1s combined to send and receive any email, and converted to kWh, we use 3.3 million kWh of electricity every single day to send this useless crap. It takes a one megawatt plant with no transmission loss (for you Nova Scotians, that’s one and a half Lingan coal plants) running 24/7 to move spam around, or 5.55 million kilograms of CO2 per year, if you’re as dirty as Lingan. If we nixed those stupid notices, it’d be like taking 1000 cars off the road. Sure, it’s not much on a global basis, but it all adds up.
If you really want to cut down on CO2 emissions though, stop subscribing to email lists that you don’t read, and find a way to stop spam emails in their tracks, since spam accounts for 90% of total email volume.