I’m sure this has long since dawned on all the really smart people, but it’s really starting to become fifty-foot-letters-of-fire-in-the-sky obvious: if you’re sending anything across the Net, why would you ever send it uncompressed? And if you’re sending something to any audience other than the whole world, why would you ever send it unencrypted?
Tim Bray’s Ongoing: “How to Send Data”
Forget about compression right now (time and bandwidth might not matter to us — though email limits would). The question is: does your firm use encryption?
Encryption is not an easy matter to understand technically, though there’s a surprisingly accessible article about it on Howstuffworks. It’s best left to the IT team to set up and administer. But it’s every lawyer’s duty, I’d say, to know whether and when a communication is made secure by encryption and when it’s being sent in “en clair” (thanks, John LeCarré, and Bletchley Park, etc.).
Even though we know better, we tend to think that because of the mysterious nature of data transmission across the internet and because of the blinding speed of the transfer, the data we send is somehow perfectly secure. “I don’t know where it went when it left my computer, so how could anyone else find it?” “It was only out there for a millisecond; what are the chances someone read it in that time?” But that’s a head-in-the-sand approach to security.
There are readily available encryption tools out there, perhaps the most well known being PGP (“Pretty Good Privacy”). But your firm may have a different solution. Ask about it. Tell us what the IT folks say.