I think that too much is made of differences between regular
mail and email.
How do you know that regular mail has been received? You don't,
unless you pay for certified or registered. Even then, you
are relying on a signature affixed by someone who says they are
the person you are sending it to. How reliable is that?
How do you know that regular mail hasn't been tampered with?
How do you know that the regular mail that you receive is actually
from the person from whom it purports to come? You don't.
The reason we engage in transactions conducted by regular mail
is that even though it is easily possible to forge signatures,
letterhead and return addresses, it doesn't happen very often because
usually, no one in a position to do it has the motive to do it. And,
we rely on the circumstances surrounding a regular mail transaction
to assure us that mail communications are genuine. For example, if
you call up (or email) your broker to request information about your
brokerage account, and the information arrives by regular mail in
due course with the proper return address, you assume it's genuine
because it probably is--it arrived in response to your request.
On the other hand, you should be suspicious
of a letter that you receive from someone you have never heard of
requesting that you call a 900 number and give your credit card
information so that you can receive a free credit report. Or even
a letter that you receive from someone you *have* heard of
requesting that you supply that kind of information. Although
presumably, common sense dictates caution in that situation, we
know that many frauds are perpetrated by such devices. Yet you
don't see people denouncing the unreliablity of mail transactions,
IMHO, the main difference between email and regular mail is that we
are familiar with regular mail and we understand (generally) how it
works, so we tend to instinctively structure our transactions accordingly.
In mail transactions we take certain risks (that mail might fail to
reach its intended recipient, for example) and certain precautions (such
as registered or certified service, or the very simple device of calling
the recipient to make sure that the mail arrived). We take risks and
precautions on the basis of the importance of the transaction in which
we are engaging and our understanding of the limitations of the system
we are using.
The same use can be made of email. It's not so different.
Maureen E. Garde ([log in to unmask])