Generally speaking, if you forward an email to someone else, there's no way for the original sender to be able to tell that you forwarded what they sent to you. Most email clients, such as Gmail, Outlook, Yahoo, and so on, do not support this. Using certain CRM software though, you may be able to get a rough idea if an email was forwarded.
When you work in an organization and correspond over email, you may get a message you want to show another person. It might be confidential or you simply don't want the original sender to know you're sharing it. As someone who values his privacy, I understand your concern and I've got you covered.
So, if you want to know whether the original sender can tell when you forward an email, this is the place to be. Let's get right into it.
Strictly speaking, no. There's no way for the sender of the original email to tell or be 100% certain that you forwarded an email to another person.
Email clients like Gmail, Outlook, Yahoo, AOL, and so on, simply do not have this kind of functionality built into the platform.
This means that if you forward an email, even if it is confidential, the sender can't know when or if you forwarded it to another recipient.
However, keep in mind that this primarily applies to the more popular email client options. If your organization uses an in-house platform, it may be possible to tell if a message was forwarded.
Now, you might hear that some Customer Relationship Management (CRM) programs can give away if you forward an email that was sent from their platform. Is this accurate?
Some CRM platforms like HubSpot have a tracking feature that can allow the sender access to certain metrics, like when the email was opened. They do this using what is known as a tracking pixel.
However, these tracking pixels can't discern an actual forwarded email. They can tell how many times an email was opened. If an email message sent to one person is opened 50 times, it was probably sent to another person or two (or even more). There's no way to tell for sure though.
The major reason why it is impossible to detect email forwarding for certain is because of the technology behind emails.
At its core, email is still a relatively simple means of communication. Considering the fact it has been around since the 70s, that's not much of a surprise.
Back then, data transmission was very slow. Sending a new email made of only text could be done fast enough, but if there had to be some kind of two-way communication (to check if an email was read, forwarded, etc.), it would require a lot more data to be transmitted. It simply wasn't practical back then.
As a result, email servers rely mostly on one-way data transmission. Once you send messages out from your email address, you have no control over it for the most part.
So, now you know that there's no certain way for anyone to know that you forwarded an email message sent to you.
The next important question though: is the original sender included in the email thread that is created when a recipient of a forwarded email responds to it?
The answer is no. As long as the forwarded email has only the recipient in the "To" field and no one in the CC or BCC fields, there's no way for the sender to see a single email in the whole thread of emails that might follow the forwarded message.
What if you end up as the recipient of mail that you reckon was forwarded to you by someone who is not the original sender? Is there any way for you to tell that the message was forwarded to you?
There are usually some hints in the text of the mail that will let you know if forwarding was involved. For instance:
These are the most obvious ways to tell when someone chose to forward an email to you.
However, since these signs are present in text fields that can easily be edited, anyone can simply clear out any signs that the mail they're forwarding was actually forwarded in the first place.
You might find this useful when you're trying to forward an email without the recipients being able to tell. If this is the case, make sure you double-check and remove the appropriate text from the email.
Just as a bonus, it might be a good idea to understand what differentiates CC and BCC when it comes to emails.
CC stands for Carbon Copy and BCC stands for Blind Carbon Copy.
The CC field can be used to add recipients that you would like to keep aware of the conversation. However, they are usually not the major intended recipient and tend to be more witnesses than participants.
They will also receive copies of each response made using "Reply All".
BCC is similar in that they will receive a copy of the first email, but they won't receive any replies.
The major reason is that the only person who knows the BCC addresses is the person who sent the email. The recipient, CC'd, and even other BCC'd people can't tell who was included in the BCC field.
This is the better choice when sending an email to a large group of people and you want to keep them private from one another.
There's no way for a sender to know if you forward an email, especially when using popular clients like Gmail and Outlook. CRM platforms may let you see how many times an email was opened, but they can't let you know for sure if the receiver chose to forward them.
You don't need to worry about the details of your correspondence being leaked to the original sender either. The details of the person you sent the mail to, further reply, and so on, can't be seen by the sender unless they somehow ended up in the "To", "CC", or "BCC" field.
Was this article able to show you whether your emails are safe to be forwarded without blowing your cover? If so, take a look at our related articles to learn more.