E-mail: electronic mail

E-mail (sometimes spelled email) is the collective name for messages sent and received over electronic networks such as the Internet. On the Internet, e-mail is sent using the Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP). Local networks sometimes use different protocols.

The legal status of e-mail has long been unclear. Today many countries recognize that e-mail is a legally binding way to enter into agreements (in Dutch). It is often a crime to read customers' e-mail (in Dutch) for employees of an Internet provider. And of course the sending of unsolicited commercial mail, spam (in Dutch) is usually illegal.

One important aspect of e-mail is that the message is sent without any form of protection. The actual text of the message, as well as any attachments, can easily be seen by anyone. Many people thus recommend the use of encryption to protect e-mail privacy.

Also important to note is that SMTP does not have any authentication built in. Anyone can send messages that purport to come from someone else, and it is difficult to reliably determine who the real sender was. Digital signatures are one solution to this problem. These are today recognized as legally binding (in Dutch).

E-mail security

Legal issues concerning e-mail