Breaking the iPhone Habit

If you’ve been following the Sony email scandal, could things possibly get any more embarrassing for one of the world’s biggest global conglomerates? Senior execs hurling cut-to-the-bone insults at their own A-list stars, glaring sexism and Grand Canyon-sized pay inequality that’s rife throughout the organization... Back stabbing, vicious gossip, and the most private information of their own employees exposed and laid bare. And the end is nowhere in sight — every week new information seems to get revealed, exposing new layers of humiliation and condemnation. Could this PR crisis get any worse? While the possibility of your emails getting cyber-attacked might seem remote, it’s becoming more and more common. Sony’s global humiliation serves as an inspirational lesson to us all.

Checking emails on your iPhone and composing hastily thrown together replies is precisely what got this company into hot water. It’s something we’re all guilty of. As one Sony exec remarked, “Every word that you compose by email, you have to think, ‘How would I feel if this was read aloud to an auditorium filled with friends and family members, and then broadcast live on CNN?’”

This test changes everything. First, it means forget checking emails on your iPhone. Not only is it addictive, but it’s now a high-risk activity that you simply can’t afford to do. Answering emails is a serious business. Once you hit the Send button you have absolutely no control over where those words end up. I remember wanting the earth to swallow me up after one of my clients copied me in on an email they had forwarded to a vendor — an email I had written to my client (I thought confidentially) — about that same vendor’s inability to perform certain tasks. Ouch.

Sony has proven that responding to emails, and yes, even texts, is a very serious business. It requires serious thought — not replies dashed out on the fly between shots on the golf course or during ad breaks watching the game.

Here are the biggest lessons we can apply to Sony’s misfortunes (which it would be also helpful to remind your own staff about):

  • Don’t put anything sensitive in an email. Pick up the phone instead.
  • Everything you do put in email must pass the “Friends, Family and CNN Test”.
  • Don’t assume that text messages are any more secure than email. They’re not. The same rules should apply to text messages as emails. Written communication is written communication, no matter what medium is used.

If you are concerned about the confidentiality of your emails, there is some good news. You’re certainly not alone. Billionaire Mark Cuban designed a free iPhone app called CyberDust that automatically erases emails 25 seconds after they’ve been read. Although that sounds cool, it does beg the question, “Does erase really mean erase?” Perhaps iPhone email abstinence might be best after all…