Getting Your Emails Outed

So I got an email from a reporter on Friday. The note said “…. some emails from you to various Sony executives were part of the collection released on Wikileaks. I’m working on an article for [   ]  about some of them—how they depict a behind-the-scenes look at Silicon Valley dealmaking. And I plan to include a few where you’re either the sender or recipient.”

If you are looking for a clever way to do a phishing attack, this would be it because I clicked on that link as fast as one can possibly do so. Fortunately the email was mostly tame, about the Gotham Gal and I looking for a ride to a conference from LA on someone’s plane. I didn’t insult anyone and no confidential information was revealed. Phew.

I replied to the reporter that I appreciated the heads up and I had nothing other than that to say.

If you want to look at all of my emails in the Wikileaks email dump, you can see them here.

This is the future for all of us, as I’ve stated more than a few times on this blog. When writing emails, assume they are going to end up on a site like this. Because they will. I’ve been changing my email behavior over the past few years and this latest incident has caused me to be even more cryptic. I think the vast majority of my emails will start looking like “my cell phone is [   ]. i’m free at [  ]. give me a call to discuss”


Comments (Archived):

  1. Ed Freyfogle

    But how long until every phone conversation is also recorded, whether legal or not? Or indeed how long until every face to face interaction is videoed?

    1. Joe Cardillo

      It’s pretty much already happening… (ctrl+f “phone” will give you a quick scan…gov’t wouldn’t even have access if the telecom co’s weren’t already caching)

  2. kidmercury

    there is no escaping this, leaving your cell phone or schedule blank won’t save you. what’s truly needed is an authority to defend you. in time platforms will play this role, and one key tactic they will utilize in doing so is increasingly governed (some might say “closed”) architectures.

  3. kirklove

    Sad there are no “Melo is a punk” emails from me 🙁

    1. fredwilson

      They are only interested in things that are not universally understood

  4. mikenolan99

    Have we ever lived in a time where the human race communicates more often in writing, yet does it so poorly?I recently read Richard Feynman’s letters… And was struck by the gentle prose of a very smart scientist. I fear if they ever published my emails my mother the English teacher would scold me from the heavens.Not only is face to face communication less discoverable, it also tends to be, well, more gooder.

    1. pointsnfigures

      friend of mine is a lawyer, CPA-works for a big firm. he says the quality of writing among people graduating today is horrible

      1. Matt Kruza

        You usually don’t fit the tropes of older individuals, but people for time in memoriam continue to bitch about “the next generation”. I am a millennial, have worked at an investment bank, interned VC firm and worked at a top management consulting firm and can attest at each of these the leadership has mentioned how they NEVER would have been hired nowadays with the skillset that this generation has. Now, to be fair, that may be victim to a similar need to exaggerate, but this generation is supremely talented from a fundamental side. I would agree creative thinking and resourcefulness may be lower than past generations. (primarily a result of how “sanitized” growing up now is, especially those from relatively privellaged backgrounds). Anyway, this is a long response probably to an off-hand remark you made. I have respected a lot of what you have to say (many good comments here and on your blog), so just wanted to push back, because I know you are just relaying what they said, but you didn’t push back on it and I disagree pretty strongly with the assertion. And yes, some could argue that I am being self-interested (as a millennial myself), but I couldn’t be more up front about my potential conflict of interest in dismissing the ideas about “this generation”. So I guess best place to leave it is do YOU feel this same way about this generation? Sort of surprised that you would seeing that is mainly who you invest in (I think.. could be wrong..please correct if need be), but genuinely curious.

        1. pointsnfigures

          I don’t bitch about the millennial generation. But, I am not in a work place where formal writing and other formalities are an expectation. In an accounting firm, (or law firm), using abbreviations like LOL and calling people “dude” aren’t appropriate.I actually think the skillset of this generation is in many ways a lot better than my generation. The only one where I’d say mine was better was in the way we communicated-both verbally and in written form. But, writing in general has declined generation after generation. We look at letters that soldiers wrote in the Civil War or even WW2 now and can be awed by the prose of the language in a basic task.One good thing that has happened over the years though is at least everyone has access to a good educational institution in America-even if it’s not the highest quality. At least there is the chance and access. That wasn’t true 80 years ago.

          1. LE

            In an accounting firm, (or law firm), using abbreviations like LOL and calling people “dude” aren’t appropriate.(The other one btw is “bro”. )To me all of that is annoying in any business context, and for that matter non business communication as well. Just never got used to it.

          2. awaldstein

            Came back to this this morning.i find that thinking about generations as generalizations not very useful.For education or niche fashion perhaps, but across my exposure to people and projects, selling a variety of items to wide swatches of populations, thinking about customers in age groupings not all that useful.Generalizations invariably like stereotyping hamper not enhance thought.

        2. MiniHaHa

          Uhhh, Dude, not to make you the poster child for being unable to write or anything but the phrase you are looking for is:”time immemorial”Exhibit A for the plaintiff, no?

        3. JLM

          .The best thing about youth is that you outgrow it.I am involved with my alma mater on a very intimate basis — the average student is head and shoulders above the average student of my day. No question about it. Not even a close call.The top 5%? Not so much. It is the top 5% of any generation which will change the world.Millenials — on average — are intellectually superior in many ways but that is a very small part of life. You have to live life to understand that.In life, it is not the “IQ” — it is the “I DO”, the “I WILL” which determines outcomes.I find them, in general, to be devoid of any sense of honor. They have not had the institutions to teach them honor. It is not their fault.We have destroyed the institutions that developed character and we have clouded the message as to what character means.I find millenials not to be able to embrace or understand the notion of duty. Again, not their fault. We have become a nanny nation which has a T-ball sense of how things should work.Everybody gets a chance to keep swinging. Everybody gets a hit. Nobody is ever out. We don’t keep score. Both teams win. And, then, we go out for ice cream.The big thing the millenials miss is this — who made this great country that has enabled you to be so brilliant? Who made these institutions at which you are educated? Who has provided the wealth that allows you to enjoy life? Where did our freedoms come from?It was men since George Washington and your grandfathers, your fathers and better men who safeguarded your freedoms. Be grateful. Be respectful. Be a little in awe of what was waiting for your brilliant selves.When I was 22 years old, I had 46 men who counted on me to know what I was doing. Sadly, I did not — at first. Then at 25, I had 450 combat engineers. I wasn’t making “big” decisions, I was making life and fucking death decisions.I made some mistakes and it cost men their lives and for the rest of my life I will be haunted by those memories.But it made me grow up and I learned some things about life. I learned I was not a pimple on the world’s ass. But I had been given the greatest honor imaginable — mothers had entrusted me with their son’s lives. There is no greater honor.Why?Because of the accident my birth. Because George Washington and my father had built this country and I just got to inherit it. I got my chance because of them.I learned everything I ever needed to run a business as a platoon leader and a company commander. And, I put it to good work. I lived the American dream but not because of me — because of the people who had built this great country.Be grateful to be an American and stop blowing smoke up the world’s ass about how great you and your generation are or might be.Be grateful to be an American. To reap what was sowed by better men. The men who built this country. They are the ones who laid the foundation upon which you stand.The best thing about youth? You outgrow

          1. Joe Cardillo

            + women, they also laid the foundation.

          2. JLM

            .I know it is politically correct to say that — historically accurate, not so much — but you will have to give me a few names of the Founding Mothers to really convince me.Of course, in addition to braving sniper fire, maybe Hillary was there. Looks old enough.It was a boys club.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          3. Joe Cardillo

            Well if you’re talking specifically that wrote the constitution and organized first congress, then yes. But plenty of important work by people like Mott, Walton, and Bascombe in 1800s & 1900s.

          4. JLM

            .OK, household names all. Yes, yes, and yes.Why do we have to misstate the simple truth? Our country was built by men.There is no dishonor to women there. Nor is any intended.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          5. Joe Cardillo

            Not a problem, I understand, I was just thinking of the word “built” differently, not quite as literally as you were intending it. Semantics = )

          6. Anne Libby

            So glad I dropped back in again today…

          7. JLM

            .Actually, I love the depiction of HRC as a troll so much, this may actually serve to encourage me rather than dissuade me.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          8. Anne Libby


          9. wfjackson3

            Hey JLM,Generally, I love your comments. Quite frankly, though Fred does a great job, I mostly come back here to read things that you and the other regular commenters write. But you are way off base on this one.You see, I grew up in a military family. Of my 3 grandfathers (one from a divorce/remarriage), two fought in WW2. Of my 6 uncles, 4 were active duty. Both my father and my mother were active duty Army. I got to live the other side of your story, watching my dad run an avim maintenance company. I got to see him do all of the hard work to manage and care for his soldiers. And yes, it was a boys club. But just because the boys always acted like fucking assholes towards the women.My mother was a hell of a soldier. In her station in MI, she was considered one of the best. But after being failing to get the 1980’s US Army to treat her in a way that even resembled fair, she was forced to choose between a career of playing second fiddle to some Top Gun’s Iceman style bros, or leaving to do something where her being a woman wouldn’t be a limiting factor in what she could accomplish.I loved growing up in a military community. But please don’t pretend like men are responsible for our country. If we didn’t spend 300 years acting so self important, we would probably be a lot further along as a society.

          10. JLM

            .Not sure I get your point. Perhaps you are overthinking it, looking beyond what I actually said.Look at the Declaration of Independence and tell me how many women signed it? How many women were at the almost ten years of meetings that lead up to our Constitution?This is 2015 and we have never had a woman President, though I am a little suspect on Jimmy Carter and he was a squid. Annapolis guys, well, you know what I mean. [Just for clarification, this is an inter-service rivalry joke.]This does not indict the contributions of many women at some future date.My Mother was a WWII vet but while my Dad was a battlefield commissioned Infantry officer and ultimately retired from the Army, my Mom never commanded troops.I think you are letting sentimentality and PC get in the way of simple facts, men ran the show.Was that smart or well intentioned is not the issue — men ran the show and by and large today continue to do so.I would love to see a woman President; Condoleeza Rice would be my pick. That doesn’t change the simple fact that our country was founded by men.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          11. wfjackson3

            I get the joke, but it’s best you clarified for the uninitiated. Annapolis guys aren’t that bad compared to Marines; they always have to ask for a ride (that’s a MARINE as abbreviation joke).I agree that men ran the show. I just want to point out that it was usually because men had run the show before, and they continued to not allow women to run it. But I will disagree that men founded the country. Women did too, its just that none of them got to sign for it.

          12. JLM

            .Well, there was that little structural problem — the Founding Fathers not allowing women to vote?JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          13. Ryan Frew

            One of my favorite comments I’ve ever come across at AVC.

          14. Drew Meyers

            “In life, it is not the “IQ” — it is the “I DO”, the “I WILL” which determines outcomes.”I love this.

        4. Kirsten Lambertsen

          +++ My interactions with people younger than myself have done nothing but convince me that they’re, overall, a much better bunch than my own generation.Codgers gonna codge, but your generation is laughing all the way to a better world 🙂

          1. ShanaC


          2. fredwilson

            Me too

        5. Salt Shaker

          Generational stereotypes–either good or bad–are frankly just silly. I do think, however, our educational system does a very poor job on teaching students how to effectively write. I’ve seen and experienced an awful lot of job candidates and recent hires who write very, very poorly. I know my writing skills grew w/ on the job experience, but going in my skill set too was prob lacking.

          1. fredwilson


        6. Donna Brewington White

          Well in Jeff’s defense he only referred to writing skills. Nothing else.I am amazed by millennials and trying to learn from them all I can. But I some things to teach them as well.

        7. fredwilson

          I have three kids aged 24, 22, and 19. They write beautifully and so do their friends. I think the assertion that millennials can’t write well is nonsense

          1. LE

            Most likely attended the finer schools in Manhattan though.

          2. AlexHammer

            If that is true for this generation, then maybe we have Evan Williams and Medium (and Blogger) to thank for that (although he also helped bring us your wildly successful investment Twitter, which brought 140 characters instead of – Peter Thiel – flying cars).We do – all of us – not just millennials – have more fractured attention today. Attention is perhaps our most valuable resource today, and if we didn’t develop (very strong) attention filters then we wouldn’t survive.But some of us a little older remember when the world wasn’t quite as fast. Every generation has been saying that about the next, but as Ray Kurzweil eloquently reminds us, with the law of accelerating returns, change is happening not only more quickly in the future than in the past, but exponentially faster.Charles Darwin posited that it is our adaptability to change that gives a species and individual members a competitive advantage. This is, and will continue to be even moreso, increasingly so. As a result, what kind of body you have etc. will be less and less important in the future, as opposed to what kind of circumstances you can create. As a famous truism states (paraphrase), the most successful go out and find the circumstances that they need, and if they can’t find them, they create them.

        8. wfjackson3

          Matt, in a conversation that started by discussing poor writing skills, don’t use parentheses in your writing. It screams to the reader that you can’t be bothered to properly organize your thoughts.

          1. Matt Kruza

            Ok, troll on

          2. wfjackson3

            It’s not trolling Matt. If I was trolling you, I wouldn’t have taken my time to give you a reason why it matters.

      2. Matt Kruza

        Just wanted to clarify, I don’t want my post to come off aggressive. I just really hate when older generations dump, especially when wrong. Probably mainly the fault of your friend and not you. Either way just wanted to clarify the spirit of my comment to make sure it is clear.

        1. LE

          I wouldn’t worry to much about older people (who are not in a position of authority over you) making comments about how you say what you say or how you work. If they are your boss, suck up to them. If they are not then blow it off. The only thing that matters is what you do that either gets results or doesn’t get results. Besides they wish that they were younger and part of that comes from jealousy.

        2. wfjackson3

          As a fellow millenial, I can say I agree with JLM. Most millenials just need to grow up. It took me a while too, but it needs to happen for the rest of you.

    2. JLM

      .Part of being able to write well is actually writing. Our parents generation could write well as a result of a high school education. They taught writing and that generation actually wrote letters.When I was overseas in the Army, my mother used to write 1-2 letters a week. I, of course, being engaged in time consuming matters (not fair really) failed to write a single letter home in 12 months.I was an idiot.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

      1. Pete Griffiths

        A small part of being able to write well is actually writing. Most of it is rewriting. :).

        1. JLM

          .I agree more with you …..JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

    3. Matt A. Myers

      Time pressures, not having the time to sit and reflect before writing deeper thoughts – and the impact of those thoughts on others – is primarily why.

  5. Humberto

    Kind of related – do you plan to or frequently delete past emails? Sure, it’s a half solution (the email will be on someone’s inbox too), but I’m becoming increasingly uncomfortable with having all my life in a Gmail inbox which is stored in a country other than my own, with privacy policies different than the ones I want, and subject to a government with a poor track record..Also, phone calls are probably going to be next. And in a phone call we frequently talk with our brains and heart and say things we don’t plan to.

    1. fredwilson

      If the recipient hasn’t done the same you haven’t really deleted anything

      1. Humberto

        you are right. what worries me is that you can’t really guarantee your phonecalls aren’t being recorded by your recipients or another entity either.

  6. William Mougayar

    Why would that Sony executive discuss personal & job matters using his Sony email? If he had used gmail for example, you wouldn’t be part of this leak, right?

    1. awaldstein

      people are simply not careful.everyone on this thread has been bcc’d on things that were seriously ‘not’ meant for them.

    2. LE

      Implies that there is no way for someone to hack gmail which is simply not true. Besides in the end gmail communicates with outside email servers as well as intermediate paths. Where there is a will, there is a way.

      1. William Mougayar

        yes, of course if my gmail email goes to a corporate email domain, then it’s there to be hacked potentially. has there been cases of large scale Gmail hacking?

        1. LE

          Well it’s as easy as someone who you are sending an email to having a weak password! (Who says it has to be large scale?)As far as “has it happened” past results mean nothing. And in some cases past results (where something has happened like with an airline crash) produce a better system because a hole was plugged.

    3. fredwilson

      I do the same thing. I use my email for everything. As you see the line between business and personal is not clear in any case

  7. awaldstein

    This is a big deal.Email changed our lives.Email as a public document will throw us into something new–I think very much not as communicative.Are texts equally insecure? There is bad shit on them, messaging systems, on What’s app.

    1. Joe Cardillo

      How familiar are you w/the Snowden stuff from last year, year and a half? I’m surprised by some of the comments here from regulars, because as far as I can read into it (which is not huge, I’m not a surveillance expert) pretty much everything is searchable, and is already being tracked. There’s only one way that could be happening, the underpinnings of all consumer comms services are setup for centralized surveillance.

      1. LE

        Where is the connection between someone like Snowden saying something, and it being actually true. Or even if it is true or possible in practically it actually happening?

        1. Joe Cardillo

          Depends on who you ask. WP has some good reporting around this e.g. http://www.washingtonpost.c…It’s easy to say, what’s the harm in consumer co’s collecting and/or providing to govt? But if Fred’s emails contained information about one of his kids having a rare disease and that was publicly revealed, even accidentally, he (and we) would probably feel less casual about it. I bet there are a few emails in the database of Sony emails like that.

          1. LE

            Unfortunately the WP, the EFF and the blowhards in the media completely avoid the point that there is a reason to do this to, in theory, protect us. They will of course trot around all sorts of data to back up that it didn’t protect anyone and never will, just like they like to complain about the TSA at airports not doing their job and so on.I’m not sure the “Fred’s kid rare disease” is a good example btw. Why exactly would it matter if people hypothectically found that out (relative to the point you were making I mean I’m not saying it should be public..)

          2. Joe Cardillo

            It’s a fine example, people are illegally denied credit and jobs all the time because of medical conditions.

          3. LE

            People are not “Fred’s kids”. Well you did say “Fred’s kids”, right? They don’t have to worry about being denied credit and for that matter being denied a job is not an issue that they will have to contend with in the same way that others might. The mere fact of being “Fred’s kid” will open an entire world of possibility to them.Obviously Fred exposes his kids (by way of association to Fred someone who the NYPOST would write about as opposed to me or you) with a certain amount of danger by association. That goes with the territory. But along with that comes a tremendous amount of upside and potential opportunity. Likewise Fred’s blog opens him up to more scrutiny and potential issues than if he didn’t blog at all (like some VC’s).

      2. awaldstein

        A bit.It’s human nature to think–not I!

        1. Joe Cardillo

          True that! Some interesting stuff from Pew about perceptions of privacy online, too –>

  8. LIAD

    akin to how I felt going through discovery/disclosure in litigation.The Mafia don’t exclusively communicate face to face for nothing.

  9. pointsnfigures

    that would turn my stomach. no doubt, people will use email against other people and attack them to get personal/political/business gain. suicides will result.

  10. Anne Libby

    I need to set up Brittany’s email hack for my most frequently used email statement, “This would be a more effective conversation than email chain.”http://www.brittanymlaughli…

    1. ShanaC

      Good hack

    2. Kirsten Lambertsen


  11. Tom Labus

    I don’t know if cells are much better

  12. William Mougayar

    Regardless of subject matter being tame or not, the feeling of having your privacy invaded & made public is just awful & gut turning.

    1. AlexHammer

      Perhaps that is why most people prefer to live on the sidelines making judgments of others, rather than, as per Teddy R., operate in the arena themselves.

    2. Joe Cardillo

      It really is, and my experience has been that the “everyone should live completely transparently it’s amazing” set usually feel different when it’s their life under a microscope. We all deserve to think and express ourselves in private.

  13. Dave Pinsen

    Years ago, my father told me, “write your emails as if they are going to be printed on the front page of the New York Times”.

    1. Marissa_NYx

      This is so true , literally. Anyone who has worked in a large corporate will know that email is a political weapon. It can promote & destroy. In this environment , I was trained to never document anything on email that I didn’t want to see published in the press, put in front of a judge or circulated to hundreds of people in the company. If there was ever a debate or issue to resolve, the way I did it then – as I do today at my startup – is pick up the phone or skype ,do it face to face .In one corporate I worked at early in my career which was home to 50,000+ staff, the way to find out what was going on was to pick up a specific daily broadsheet newspaper (like the NY times ) . The corporate leaked inside information like you would not believe. It was amazing .everyday these journos had access to some great (disgruntled ) sources ! I recall then being astonished how confidential emails between execs would find their way as screenshots in this particular newspaper . Seems like today, we have amplified the possibility of this happening to anyone, anywhere.

  14. AlexHammer

    It is a balancing act. Judgment is key, but so is authenticity. If one becomes so bland as to become completely uninspiring, then one’s success can suffer the proverbial “death of a thousand cuts” (loss of interest) as opposed to the “death by catastrophic loss” from an embarrassing episode. Context and character are everything in regard to how one’s reputation is built and maintained, and how one is perceived.Here’s another example. You sometimes use cuss words (the s word) in public interviews, but it is part of the Silicon Valley culture. Gary V. is actually a potty-mouth if viewed in some circles (by those standards), but he possesses a very high degree of both authenticity and accomplishment, so his speech is, rightfully so, interpreted in that positive context.Let’s not sanitize life or live in fear, but, yes, let’s use a lot of common sense and a bit of extra caution and restraint in our business wordings especially.

  15. andyswan

    Never write what you can say, never say what you can whisper, never whisper what you can wink.

    1. JimHirshfield

      <<null comment,=”” due=”” to=”” user=”” wink=””>>

    2. Kirsten Lambertsen

      Things always go better for me when I remember to abide by this one.

    3. David Barnes


  16. Alex Dunsdon

    Until your cell is hacked and transcribed.

  17. Pranay Srinivasan

    wow. this is so scary. I often wonder about leaks on FB or Twitter or anything thats indexable.Wonder how long before Email ie indexable and can be searched with a “God View” some Defence Industry builds. And then that gets leaked or misused.All that encryption and SSL is useless at the destination server finally I guess.Glad to hear you guys were not compromised.

  18. JimHirshfield

    I think introducing people to each other and scheduling meetings must be the most common and safest use cases of email. And maybe that’s what we should limit it to.

    1. LE

      And maybe that’s what we should limit it to.Who’s “we” suckah? A ton of business is conducted by email and it’s an important time saver. How about if we stop saying things on disqus or just stop taking any risk in life at all? Fred can stop riding that scooter around Manhattan as well and stop flying so much in airplanes.

    2. fredwilson

      That’s more or less what I use it for

  19. LE

    I replied to the reporter that I appreciated the heads up and I had nothing other than that to say.Because to the reporter this is just one big game and the way that they earn their living. You know for the greater good of mankind and all of that. I find the idea of someone disclosing and discussing someone’s personal emails (such as yours) totally disgusting.

  20. LE

    I’ve been changing my email behavior over the past few years and this latest incident has caused me to be even more cryptic.If by cryptic you mean “ambiguous” that is not necessarily an improvement. Something to keep in mind.Being cryptic allows people to infer many more things to their liking than by being exact in many cases. Just like in legal contracts there is a reason to be precise and a reason to not be precise depending on what purpose is trying to be achieved.Readers can then, if they want, lean toward the most salacious and damning interpretation and make hay with that, if that is their intent.Just like I did by your one use of the word “cryptic”. Very possible you meant something entirely different.

  21. LE

    I think the vast majority of my emails will start looking like “my cell phone is [ ]. i’m free at [ ]. give me a call to discuss”The problem with that (other than having your cell phone leaked and having to change that periodically) is that you are removing the paper trail that also helps you in so many ways documentary wise. Unless of course you can keep all sorts of facts, figures and deal points in your head or you plan to keep extensive contemporaneous notes of your conversations immediately after the fact.I typically do the opposite. After a phone call I’ve gotten into the habit of sending a summary email of the conversation in many cases so everyone knows what was discussed and agreed to.

  22. ShanaC

    First, I’m sorry.Second, aren’t calls tappable too? So what prevents anyone from actually living privately

    1. LE

      Second, aren’t calls tappable too?In the US depends on the State. Some you need both parties to agree (PA for example) and some you only need one party to agree (NJ for example).

      1. Joe Cardillo

        I’m not sure about the legality, but as I understand per Snowden most calls are routed & cached the same way emails and texts are…and so are searchable.

        1. LE

          Are you saying cached by the government or cached by providers? Providers are not caching phone calls. They have no reason to (other than if they are compelled by the government) and if the government is doing it for some discreet law enforcement purpose who cares? I don’t loose any sleep over that I’ve got enough things that actually matter day to day to worry about. Not some hypothetical thing that is on the fringe. I hope Snowden is happy with how his life is going to be from now on.There are people that somehow (tin hats) believe that if they are having a phone conversation (that isn’t being taped subject to a court order) that the government is listening or recording and if they say they are doing something illegal then, well, the government could swope down on them or bring up that tape in a later legal proceeding. Isn’t happening pure folly. If it were happening where is the court proceedings to back that up?Try this one day. Call up the IRS and tell them you know about someone who is cheating on their taxes and you want to turn them in. Then see what they say to you. Try it also at the State level. For that matter tell them you have a legally obtained tape recorded phone call where they admit to cheating on their taxes. See what they do. I can’t even get the local government to stop a neighbor that they know is running a business out of the house. The law is written to prevent that but they can’t go to court without evidence and they don’t have the budget to collect the evidence!This entire obsession some people have with what the government is doing or could do is ridiculous. The government doesn’t have a 1000th of the manpower or prosecutorial force to cause the damage that people seem to think that they are doing on a daily basis. If they did they would do a better job of catching speeders or auditing tax returns as a simple start.

          1. Joe Cardillo

            Cached by providers.The reasons & methods behind gov’t surveillance is a whole other conversation. I would argue it’s not as simple as “those bureaucratic dolts can’t find their pants,” as per your suggestion, but in this instance I’m talking about large consumer facing co’s. There isn’t a single one of them that isn’t in the data collection & monetization business, no matter what they say they do. The Snowden stuff revealed that…there is a very slim probability that govts (as you point out) are smart and organized enough to hack into and run structured or raw data pulls off of consumer co’s without cooperation.Also you don’t have to take my word for it: (the point here being, aside from govt’ surveillance, that consumer co’s are already collecting and categorizing every single bit of data…hence problems like the Sony hack that Fred is experiencing a small amount of blowback from).

          2. LE

            Eff does some good things but they have segued to rattling about anything and everything to support their purpose and organization (similar to “environmental advocates” or “animal welfare advocates” and so on). They have a vested interest in rabel rousing, just like Al Sharpton does or talking heads on TV do.There isn’t a single one of them that isn’t in the data collection & monetization business, no matter what they say they do.Organizations and companies would be able to be more honest about the way that they operate if the “ordinary man” or more exactly “the vocal ordinary man” (or the blowhards in the media) was able to understand things from a business point of view.People always go spouting off about things and being idealistic from behind the comfort of the tv set. “Yeah I wouldn’t have shot that guy I would have …..”

          3. Joe Cardillo

            We’ll have to agree to disagree on this one. Plus I have a TV set to get back to.

  23. Elia Freedman

    That’ll work for a little while, Fred, until all your phone calls are recorded, automatically translated to text, and stored on a server somewhere, at which point the same rules apply as emails. The over/under on that, at our current pace, has got to be 10 years.

    1. Paul Sanwald

      I think it’s way under 10 years, and I say that as someone who makes communications analysis software for a living.

  24. Kirsten Lambertsen

    I’m already starting to feel Email Leak Fatigue. Maybe I’m alone, but unless it involves someone revealing their secret identity as a superhero, I couldn’t feel less interested in all these email leaks.Of course, that doesn’t make it any less of a drag for the people targeted.

  25. John Revay

    I cringe sometimes w/ the level of details people write in emails especially on sensitive topics.#callme

  26. Eric P. Rhodes

    Email privacy is an oxymoron. I am a fierce custodian of my own privacy. I didn’t used to be. But now everything I write in email today would be something I’m comfortable with being made public.

  27. John Revay

    “about the Gotham Gal and I looking for a ride to a conference from LA on someone’s plane”Assuming USV does not have a Net Jet’s subscription…. I think I remember Albert saying that he flew coach at times.On a political front – I would get rid of the US air force – private jet fleet, and limit congress and the senate to fly coach as well.

    1. LE

      I would get rid of the US air force – private jet fleet, and limit congress and the senate to fly coach as well.Stuff like that doesn’t bother me a bit. It’s deminimis and a perk.

      1. John Revay

        Bothers the hell out of me. so much for for the people by the people

        1. LE

          They are paid poorly, relative to the job that they are entrusted to do and the level of importance. And before someone trots out how, say, teachers are important and that they are paid less than congress keep in mind that there are a vast greater number of teachers or any “job x” than there are members of congress. (Not saying that raising pay would help either just mentioning that the pay is not in proportion to the job that they have to do with all the drawback of being a public person with essentially little job security..)

          1. LE

            Well have you considered that the reason that that is the case is that in order to take off from your regular job and run for office (given what it pays and what the job security is) that you would have to have somewhat of a nest egg?

    2. fredwilson

      USV doesn’t have jets. We fly commercial. And we fly both coach and business depending on the flight. I’m a big fan of flying upfront on overnight flights and long flights.

      1. awaldstein

        my rule of thumb for coach and business for teams were, if you are heading to meetings as soon as you land, business is the right choice if within reason.

        1. Richard

          If one has a health issue that requires first class travel (or trying to lesssen the chance of one), why put a price on health.

          1. awaldstein

            don’t understand this issues that require first class travel is called what?

          2. Cam MacRae

            A history of DVT.

          3. awaldstein

            too much savoie mondeuse this evening as i’m just missing this.

          4. Cam MacRae

            If you have a history of deep vein thrombosis you cannot fly economy as a general rule.I don’t know if the same applies to premium economy, which on the airlines I fly regularly roughly approximates the standard of 80’s economy.

          5. awaldstein


      2. LE

        “USV doesn’t have jets. We fly commercial. And we fly both coach and business depending on the flight.”Dammit I hate when you apologize like that. Your time is your most valuable commodity. You should do whatever you can to make it a better use of your time. Who gives a shit what anyone thinks.I guess that’s also the problem with having partners though. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. I hate shit like that.

  28. laurie kalmanson

    Call for the cone of silence or use your shoe phone

    1. Joe Cardillo

      Or a series of really, really long strings and cans =)

    2. fredwilson


  29. Salt Shaker

    Since I have no immediate plans to assassinate Kim Jong-un (for real or in jest), I’m pretty sure my emails are safe.We’ve all been a sender and/or receiver of inappropriate, confidential or misconstrued emails. It’s a medium that can be quite ill suited to the nuances of communication (e.g., intonation, tone, confidentiality), yet expediency and efficiency will generally trump a phone call or face to face discussion. How many times have you had to follow-up on an email w/ a phone convo and a “I should have called you” mea culpa. Countless for me. Privacy is a growing concern, but engaging in bad biz practices is an even greater one.

  30. Shalabh

    Damn! you really are a bigger man than most people I know. Just read the emails in the Wikileaks email dump. I would never have the courage to share it on my own blog (specially when it has such a hue audience). Hats off to you. Though i still find this weird.

    1. fredwilson

      Out yourself before someone does it to you

      1. William Mougayar

        It’s better to shoot yourself in the foot than to have someone else shoot you in the head.

  31. Richard

    Wow!! sorry, but mostly sorry for startups who need to reach out to you.

  32. William Mougayar

    Hang on a minute…you had us going here. Why capitulate to the forces of evil and manipulation by declaring that email- the great tool that it is- is now unsafe and therefore we should be muted on it, and start taking phone calls to make-up for that?Why throw the baby with the bath water?Why not have better, more secure email systems and procedures? And why not more forcefully prosecute those that breach and leak these private conversations? We could even make it a crime for reporters to publicize leaked & illegally obtained information if it can harm people.If illegally leaked information is now available, that shouldn’t give us the right to publicize it and amplify it. It was private at the source and should remain so.If you find drugs or a piece of jewellery on the street that someone abandoned or lost, and you take that, isn’t that stealing too?

    1. LE

      Why throw the baby with the bath water?Exactly.Anyway, why you ask? Because it is a knee jerk reaction to an unlikely impending doom. Similar to the way that airline accidents seem more likely, and you fear flying more, if it’s the story of the day and all over the news. And especially if it’s on a route you normally fly.Remember those driving films they used to play when you learned to drive? You kept those in mind until they shock wore off.And why not more forcefully prosecute those that breach and leak these private conversations? We could even make it a crime for reporters to publicize leaked & illegally obtained information if it can harm people.Agree 100%. What people will lean on though is that it could just be displayed in a foreign country out of US or, say, Canadian jurisdiction.. Of course that excuse hasn’t stopped the prosecution of things that are grandfathered as being “third rails”.If illegally leaked information is now available, that shouldn’t give us the right to publicize it and amplify it. It was private at the source and should remain so.Agree 100%.

      1. William Mougayar

        We agree with each other more than we agree with ourselves. (forking JLM’s saying)In the meantime, the writers/publishers are going to feast on the back of someone else’s privacy. As if this writer’s tone was – “Look we’ve got dirt showing-up, let’s write about it”.

        1. Drew Meyers

          “Look we’ve got dirt showing-up, let’s write about it”Yes. Sigh. Don’t get me started on this topic.

  33. Kirk Duncan

    there were other emails about your recent visit to los angeles and buying properties near venice beach. did you come across those emails as well

    1. Joe Cardillo

      + the ones where Sony officials talk to each other about Fred…they were mostly nice but it got me thinking, that cache is going to spawn a ton of stories over the next 6 months.

    2. fredwilson

      Yes. They are all on that page I linked to. And they were in the email the reporter sent me

      1. Marie Chin

        Also, that’s one reason why I don’t like to revealing identities(posting pictures) either on blog or on social networks. It will only re-affirms the sender information

  34. JLM

    .Fred, give Hillary a buzz. Girl knows how to keep those emails private.JLM

    1. David Semeria

      Nice try JLM, but the problems here were with the receiver, not the sender!

      1. JLM

        .David, that girl — new and fresh, better than ever — she can do anything when it comes to email. Trust me. Better yet, trust her.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

        1. Kirk Duncan

          and when that woman gets into power, she will make internet go private. How ? you never know so vote for her.

          1. JLM

            .She will NOT make the internet web go private, she will charge for it and send the money to the Clinton Foundation. She will be a great Empress, ooops, President.Trustworthy and honest and fair and, well, just all around good.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  35. Donna Brewington White

    My earliest memory of the telephone was a party line in a tiny town in the Midwest. My grandmother would tell me –needlessly given the nature of my few calls back then– that no call was private. I watched how adults communicated on the phone knowing that a stealthy neighbor could be listening in. Yet, still, some juicy morsels leaked out into the rumor mill.The more things change, the more they stay the same. Back to winking and nodding before it’s over with?

  36. Salt Shaker

    You’re a consistent advocate of transparency, Fred, but I wonder how some of the people you communicated w/ in these emails would feel about their broad dissemination. There seems to be a fair amount of confidential/private info in a couple (when you click on the links). I’m just sayin. Perhaps an oversight?

    1. fredwilson

      Yeah. But they are out there now. I didn’t leak them

      1. Salt Shaker

        True dat.Privacy is increasingly becoming a slippery slope. When a SC cop is sureptiously videotaped by a private citizen shooting a fleeing victim in the back, I absolutely have no prob outing him (that’s crime evidence). I do have a problem w/ the tow truck operator outing the ESPN reporter who disgustingly belittled and insulted one of their employees. I’m sure the operator had a sign on public display indicating their premises are videotaped, but that doesn’t give the operator the legal right to publicly disseminate. Moreover, I don’t believe the reporter should have been suspended by ESPN since she was not operating w/ in the scope of her job, unless her contract w/ the network has a morals clause (which it likely may). Again, privacy increasingly is becoming a slippery slope, well beyond the NSA, w/ cameras recording virtually everything in a post 9/11 world.

      2. LE

        Don’t agree. For example the property records of some of the people that you deal with are out there as well. I would assume that you wouldn’t want someone coming on AVC and posting that info (or you doing that) or for that matter where you live and so on.

      3. Juliet Meeker

        omg, what kind of a life are we leading here. while we secretly count the money in our wallets, the rest of the world knows our bank balances.the whole internet and privacy is changing the way our lives are progressing, in a bad way that is

  37. Justin Hill

    On a lighter side and for fun, I want a few of my emails to be leaked. How can i possibly get it happen ? Do I have to be a celebrity 🙂 ?

  38. JLM

    .The magnitude of what the NSA has on file is beyond belief.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  39. Jamal Vaughn

    Yo Fred Bro, Just chill out young man, watch the playoffs and get D as in distracted.keep your tensions away

    1. fredwilson

      I’m watching the Grizzlies Blazers now. Just watched the Nets lose to the Hawks

      1. Travis Gardiner

        tough game for believe spurs to win it all this time too. what ya’ think ?

        1. fredwilson

          warriors spurs in the western finals will be the championship series

      2. Richard

        lets go dodgers / mets

  40. William Mougayar

    Maybe the solution is some form of “zero-knowledge email” that is totally decentralized and tokenized, so that it becomes impossible to “attack a center”. Almost like a distributed wallet with bitcoins in it. You can only “read” the email is you’re a recipient or sender because your private key unlocks it. But of course, corporate email systems won’t like that.

    1. Trevor Gardiner

      you propose a solution and then discard it !!!! sorta confused. Is this because today is a Sunday and ‘everything’ is shut off

      1. William Mougayar

        I didn’t discard it. I said “corporates won’t like that”. It means there would be resistance to adoption, but that’s not unusual because a lot of innovations start outside of big corps first.btw- why are you the same troll as Jamal Vaughn? it’s so obvious.

        1. Trevor Gardiner

          incorrect copy – paste while switching windows. no troll here. discus bug –> cannot edit names once posted.can’t understand how this adds to the context here. As he said, you don’t have ‘it’

  41. bfeld

    I predict we will soon find out that all the data on our cell phones is being saved. And that includes all the AUDIO we are communicating. Once that data becomes public we’ll have a whole new level of discussion about this.Brad The Paranoid Android (related to Marvin)

    1. fredwilson

      Maybe our discussion of Coopers arrival earlier today will be made public

      1. bfeld

        The Voicebook …

        1. rosshill

          Have neither of you seen Citizen Four the movie yet?

          1. bfeld

            We almost watched it Saturday but then went to sleep early.

  42. Matt Zagaja

    I think the hardest thing to do is own who we are, even our flaws and private things. I hate discussing things on the phone. It’s a pain to schedule mutually convenient talking times with people, the calls drop out, and quite frankly the quality of the audio tends to make it difficult for me to understand things. I use a headset to make it easier, and also try to use FaceTime Audio when possible, but often leave this kind of communication for sensitive or urgent things.

  43. Edward Lando

    This thought has also been bothering me for a while. I wonder how people in their 20s today are going to handle running for or holding any prominent public position considering the footprint they’ve already left. Even if they start being more careful now!

  44. willfprice

    “my cell phone is x. i’m free at y. give me a call to discuss, or just read the transcripts of my cell phone at from last Summer when Xe Chan (made up name) broke into the NSA server in Utah storing them and then released it all to the public.” Maybe we should be encrypting everything more strongly at endpoints rather than giving up and incorrectly thinking some other tapped path will work better. If the people at Sony, etc. had used email encryption (admittedly an absurdly complex proposal, but that itself is solvable), none of this would have been possible.

  45. Joel Monegro

    Idea: email service where all email across all accounts is open, public and searchable by default.

  46. Sean Hull

    Fred, I think you illustrate a very important point.The issue of history & paper trail that email provides has risks, but it’s also vital. I’ve thought about this recently as a customer of mine wanted me to use one of their corporate email addresses for all correspondence. I was resistant because it’s important that I can retain a virtual trail of our interactions both before & after an engagement.And then I think of Slack. What happens when we use slack everyday and all that content is stored & saved by slack. Should we or do we want to archive that? Who should have copies? As new services like this supplant email, it all becomes more confusing.

  47. awaldstein

    so true so impossible to live life like that.ancient post on this. still believe it still don’t do it as well as i should“The best way to protect your privacy is to understand that you live in public. And act accordingly.”

  48. LE

    Kind of shows a certain phoniness though. And seems completely restricting. To what end or reason should a regular person use that type of condom?Not to mention that the overwhelming percentage of the population isn’t going to end up on the front page of ANYTHING.As with anything you have to compare the upside to the downside.

  49. pointsnfigures

    Context. A white shoe law or accounting firm is different than a startup or a tech company. Sergey and Eric can dispatch people to do that for them-in a white shoe firm often the person is face to face with the client and is representing the firm in front of them.

  50. pointsnfigures

    No, I agree with my buddy. In general, the millennials do not write or speak as well as previous generations. They are much more casual. It’s important to understand, not all business is casual.

  51. John Revay

    ya – that is a bunch of bunk – “by law” – who passed the law anyway?

  52. JLM

    .Charlie, I love you man, but don’t even go there.HRC is the biggest phony in the history of modern woman. The silly story about her being named after Sir Edmund, her grandparents the immigrants, give us all a break. Really?Her only claim to any stake on the future is based on her husband’s errant aim with his baby seed.She is a liar, a first rate, world class liar. She got kicked off the Watergate commission for transgressions that should have gotten her disbarred.I realize it is often difficult to remember when you’ve been under sniper fire. Happens to me all the time and I was a soldier. Oh, wait, that isn’t true is it?The list goes on forever.Her tenure at State rivals even the incompetence of the Oval Office and those are high hurdles. There is not one place in the world in which her diplomacy has positively served American interests.Lying to the parents of dead heroes as to how and why their sons died is despicable. Even the Devil blushes at that temerity.She needs a “reset” button herself and maybe this time she should get a translator involved.HRC’s blatant criminal behavior with her emails — both from a legal and a security perspective — is a thing of beauty. The absolute sheer audacity of her lies. The President wishes he and any four of his male Cabinet officers had her balls on that subject.Other than those few things, she is Joan of Freakin’ Arc in my book.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  53. JLM

    .For you and you alone, Mr. Sensitivity, I will stop calling Hillary a “girl”.Now, does that mean I can still call her the Wicked Bitch of the East or not?JLMwww.themusingsofthebigrecar…

  54. Juliet Meeker

    I’m rolling on the floor laughing crazy. That’s terrific sense of humor. JLM for president.

  55. Salt Shaker

    Disagree. 1) Releasing the video is counter to its intended use, and is a violation of one’s privacy. Just because you inform someone they’re being videotaped doesn’t give you the right to publicly disseminate. It’s not in the public domain and the reporter certainly did not give permission to use her likeness in that manner. 2) The video was edited in a way that the made the confrontation more inflammatory and the reporter’s behavior more egregious. You don’t know what transpired on tape beforehand to set her off? Context is important. btw, I’m certainly not defending her behavior, just her legal rights. Of course, the court of public opinion has already spoken and the reporter would be foolish to even pursue.

  56. Salt Shaker

    I’m no lawyer, but the tow truck company loses their protection from liability if they exceed the bounds of common decency: “The line is to be drawn when the publicity ceases to be the giving of information to which the public is entitled, and becomes a morbid and sensational prying into private lives for its own sake, with which a reasonable member of the public, with decent standards, would say that he had no concern.” Virgil v. Time, Inc., 527 F.2d 1122, 1129 (9th Cir. 1975).