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A $1 Billion Email Gaffe

kdawson posted more than 6 years ago | from the oops-with-nine-zeros dept.

The Media 314

Jake writes in with the story behind an explosive NYTimes scoop last week. It seems that the Times's pharmaceutical industry reporter, Alex Berenson, scored a page-one blockbuster when he revealed that Eli Lilly was looking to reach a settlement with federal prosecutors over the company's alleged inappropriate marketing of anti-psychotic drug Zyprexa. A settlement figure of $1 billion was mentioned. This scoop dropped into Berenson's inbox when a lawyer for one of Lilly's retained firms mis-addressed an email to a colleague with the same last name as that of the Times reporter. Some online observers are speculating that auto-complete is to blame, but this has not been confirmed.
Update: 02/08 17:19 GMT by KD : Jake writes in with an update: it seems that while Berenson did receive a misdirected e-mail from Pepper Hamilton, that e-mail did not contain a detailed description of the status of the Eli Lilly settlement talks. Berenson got his story from other sources.

cancel ×

314 comments

The best part is, (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22315004)

as reported here [nimp.org] they screwed up royally. Link to the source next time ;)

WARNING: GNAA (2, Informative)

SirBudgington (1232290) | more than 6 years ago | (#22315046)

Don't click the link, goes to shock site and screwes with your browser.

Re:WARNING: GNAA (1)

SlashWombat (1227578) | more than 6 years ago | (#22315572)

You would think that the forum would filter on some keywords, and rejecting offending posts. The moron who keeps posting this "nimp" link would have to get his jollies elsewhere. Come on, surely /. has some developers?

Re:WARNING: GNAA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22315606)

Wow it even screws with firefox. And somehow it gets firefox to download and open a file (fore agent). Blah I didn't think firefox could be P0WNED like that.

Re:WARNING: GNAA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22315730)

No problems with Firefox here. Perhaps you're allowing untrusted Javascript?

Re:WARNING: GNAA (1)

_KiTA_ (241027) | more than 6 years ago | (#22315816)

No problems with Firefox here. Perhaps you're allowing untrusted Javascript?
No, it just tries to auto-open several obscene newsgroup names.

Re:WARNING: GNAA (1)

dal20402 (895630) | more than 6 years ago | (#22315728)

Just freezes Safari/OmniWeb. No downloaded files or permanent damage. Too bad about those 26 tabs you had open, though.

Re:The best part is, - VIRUS (1)

patric91 (656709) | more than 6 years ago | (#22315160)

Link to virus, or just an infected host...

Re:The best part is, (5, Informative)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 6 years ago | (#22315410)

If these guys would use PGP or some other form of encryption, then even if you did send something critical like that to the wrong address, it wouldn't be so devastating. The technology to protect email has been around for nearly twenty years.

Re:The best part is, (1)

budgenator (254554) | more than 6 years ago | (#22315694)

If the lusers can't tell the difference between Alex Berenson and Bradford Berenson, why would you assume that they were competent enough to use PGP or GPG? Pretty bad when a law firm that's probably billing a thousand dollars an hour or better needs to hire a high school kid to proof read email addresses.

auto-complete is at fault? (5, Insightful)

ChrisMounce (1096567) | more than 6 years ago | (#22315010)

I notice the software is being blamed rather than the user.

Re:auto-complete is at fault? (4, Interesting)

fohat (168135) | more than 6 years ago | (#22315082)

Agreed, this is more likely to be a PEBKAC.

If the info was confidential it probably had a confidentiality notice at the bottom of it, stating that if you are not the intended recipient that you aren't allowed to do anything with the email. I saw one of those sig's today and started to wonder if that was legally binding in any way. Maybe we will find out now!

Re:auto-complete is at fault? (5, Interesting)

Gat0r30y (957941) | more than 6 years ago | (#22315216)

probably had a confidentiality notice
One would hope a lawyer working at a major law firm on a sensitive case would be required to have a confidentiality notice. I guess the question is, how do you know if you aren't the intended recipient? The guy must be in his address book? How does he know he's not just getting a hot tip from a disgruntled lawyer / whistleblower? Even if you are fairly certain you aren't the intended recipient, do those canned confidentiality sigs mean anything anyway? IANAL, anyone who knows a little better care to inform?

AAPL Plunges in after-hours TRADING SELL !! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22315310)



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Re:auto-complete is at fault? (5, Interesting)

mbstone (457308) | more than 6 years ago | (#22315824)

As between lawyers, if the errant email had reached the opposing lawyer there are a number of attorney ethics rules, as well as court decisions, that basically say that the other lawyer must return any mis-transmitted documents and must not use the information. (Yeah surrre.) See Perlman, Untangling Ethics Theory From Attorney Conduct Rules: The Case of Inadvertent Disclosures [typepad.com] , 13 Geo. Mason L. Rev. 767 (2005).

These types of court decisions would not, however, support a "prior restraint" such as a court order prohibiting the NYT from publishing the information, see, e.g., New York Times Co. v. United States [wikipedia.org] , 403 U.S. 713 [cornell.edu] (1971) (5-to-3 ruling prohibiting prior restraint and allowing NYT to print the top-secret "Pentagon Papers").

My sig-filter ate your confidentiality notice (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 6 years ago | (#22315244)

Your honor, I don't know what he's talking about. I never saw anything after the word "NOTICE:".

Re:auto-complete is at fault? (5, Funny)

yali (209015) | more than 6 years ago | (#22315388)

If the info was confidential it probably had a confidentiality notice at the bottom of it, stating that if you are not the intended recipient that you aren't allowed to do anything with the email. I saw one of those sig's today and started to wonder if that was legally binding in any way. Maybe we will find out now!

IANAL, but I'm pretty sure that putting a notice at the bottom of a message creates a legally binding contract.

--
NOTICE: This message is distributed under the Slashdot Propriety License. By reading this message, you agree to moderate this message "+1 Informative" if you have mod points, otherwise to send $1,000 in small unmarked bills to the author. Failure to adhere to the terms of the license (which, if you are still reading at this point, you have already agreed to) will result in your being prosecuted under the terms of the DMCA and thrown in a small unheated cell on Guantanamo.

Re:auto-complete is at fault? (3, Interesting)

ecavalli (1216014) | more than 6 years ago | (#22315490)

IANAL, but I'm pretty sure that putting a notice at the bottom of a message creates a legally binding contract.


And while I'm sure most courts would agree with you, does that contract become void if sent to an incorrect party?

If a lawyer is upset at a ruling and leaks a confidential document to a newspaper intentionally, no amount of confidentiality disclaimers intended for the document's original target attached to the bottom of the document will stop the newspaper from running it.

I think the end point is that you can't force confidentiality on an unsuspecting party simply by sending them a piece of paper that says they are now legally bound, especially if you sent it unintentionally.

Re:auto-complete is at fault? (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 6 years ago | (#22315540)

And especially if the notice is at the *end* of the message, I mean what is the use if they've already read the juicy information? It's almost like sending a postcard rather than a sealed envelope.

Re:auto-complete is at fault? (3, Interesting)

ecavalli (1216014) | more than 6 years ago | (#22315574)

Quite so.

And how would the courts rule if the unintended recipient claimed to have only read the first two paragraphs? That might be all they need to get the crucial info, but how could they be held to a contract they never actually saw?

Re:auto-complete is at fault? (1)

LordSnooty (853791) | more than 6 years ago | (#22315646)

Well, the golden maxim of e-mail has always been that "it is like writing information on a postcard and sending it through the mail"...

Re:auto-complete is at fault? (1)

dattaway (3088) | more than 6 years ago | (#22315506)

My software dims the signature after the double dash --

I blame my software for not seeing that disclaimer. Unfortunately, I copied and pasted the important text and forwarded it as an immediate release. Please accept my apologies.

Re:auto-complete is at fault? (2, Funny)

yali (209015) | more than 6 years ago | (#22315718)

Judging from your four-digit ID number, I am going to assume that you wrote that software yourself, so you still owe me. Unless your software passes the Turing test, in which case you are safe but your computer is going to gitmo.

Re:auto-complete is at fault? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22315524)

In order for a contract to exist their must be an exchange of value (value is not the right word IIRC... it might be 'consideration').

There is no exchange in merely putting a notice on the mail and hence no contract would exist.

It may be legally binding in some other way but not by virtue of it being a contract.

Re:auto-complete is at fault? (4, Insightful)

Buran (150348) | more than 6 years ago | (#22315598)

And how are you going to prove that I agreed to it? As you pointed out in your own message, these are a joke. How exactly are you going to extort that $1,000 out of me? How are you going to force me to turn it over? You can't prove in court that I agreed to your license because you provided the goods before you had my signature or other agreement. Software licenses and real-world goods licenses don't give you the goodies until AFTER you agree.

If someone emails me something and then whines about what I do with it, perhaps they should have come to me first and said "I'm sending you (x), but if I do, will you not do (y) with it?" and then only sent it after I agreed? THAT would be enforceable.

The lawyer is SOL.

Re:auto-complete is at fault? (1)

discogravy (455376) | more than 6 years ago | (#22315676)

Guantanamo is in Cuba. There's not a whole lot of need for heated cells.

Re:auto-complete is at fault? (1)

iocat (572367) | more than 6 years ago | (#22315754)

IANAL, but I'm pretty sure that putting a notice at the bottom of a message creates a legally binding contract.

Hmm... That's an interesting concept. NOTICE: If you have read the previous sentence, you agree to visit the site associated with this slashdot user name and increase my hit count. Oh, and you have to PayPal me $5.

Huh... I don't think you can create a legally binding contract that way...

Re:auto-complete is at fault? (1)

djwavelength (398555) | more than 6 years ago | (#22315786)

NOTICE: This message is distributed under the Slashdot Propriety License. By reading this message, you agree to moderate this message "+1 Informative" if you have mod points, otherwise to send $1,000 in small unmarked bills to the author. Failure to adhere to the terms of the license (which, if you are still reading at this point, you have already agreed to) will result in your being prosecuted under the terms of the DMCA and thrown in a small unheated cell on Guantanamo.

But by not ACTUALLY throwing me in an unheated cell, can't I sue you for breach of contract?

And why does a heater matter when you're on a tropical island?

Re:auto-complete is at fault? (1)

moderatorrater (1095745) | more than 6 years ago | (#22315090)

The problem is that the lawyer was using the wrong piece of software. If you're routinely dealing with communications that are sensitive, then you should be typing the full address in every time or use lists that have been verified to be correct.

What's funny is that the software ended up revealing a lot. Don't you find it interesting that one of the lawyers happened to have this reporter in their contact book?

Re:auto-complete is at fault? (2, Interesting)

vux984 (928602) | more than 6 years ago | (#22315408)

The problem is that the lawyer was using the wrong piece of software.

If you're routinely dealing with communications that are sensitive, then you should be typing the full address in every time

Whole new use for Typosquatting.
Suddenly sjobs@aple.com, wbuffet@berksirehatheway.com, michael_dell@dall.com etc, etc, might have some additional value.

Or use lists that have been verified to be correct.

And how do you propose that? Run a completely separate mail identity for each case he works on, each with its own carefully vetted list of approved recipients? Nah, I can't see how that wouldn't be royally inconvenient and immune from errors.

What's funny is that the software ended up revealing a lot. Don't you find it interesting that one of the lawyers happened to have this reporter in their contact book?

Not particularly. Can you imagine a scenario where the reporter sent him an email at some point and he replied to it? Thats all it takes for the address to be added to the autocomplete feature. In some programs that's enough for the address to be added as a contact....

Re:auto-complete is at fault? (1)

sjwest (948274) | more than 6 years ago | (#22315222)

I mean poor old clippy already gets plenty of abuse. Give the paperclip helper a break.

Re:auto-complete is at fault? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22315358)

It would be nice to know if the e-mail had the usual legal disclaimer at the end, complete with the "if you're not the intended recipient" phrase; if it did the reporter may be in for some rough times - or at least we'll find out how strong those disclaimers are.

Re:auto-complete is at fault? (3, Insightful)

schwaang (667808) | more than 6 years ago | (#22315450)

Because who hasn't been bit by auto-complete or other software features which are pitfalls for human nature waiting to happen?

My current peeve in this area is my cellphone directory. Every entry is in the same huge list, which means I have to thumb carefully past people I definitely *don't* want to call by accident (but still need to have in my book). The lame workaround is to use an alphabetic prefix to move important people to the top of the list, take-out restaurants to the bottom, etc. Is this really the 21st century?

Re:auto-complete is at fault? (1)

mattmatt (855592) | more than 6 years ago | (#22315596)

Get a phone that has lists or groups... isn't this the 21st century?

Re:auto-complete is at fault? (1)

B3ryllium (571199) | more than 6 years ago | (#22315650)

My Razr has the solution for that: Activate voice mode, say "Lookup {name}", and it shows me the number and waits for me to confirm before dialing.

I've owned it for two years, and I only started playing with this feature a week ago. :)

Re:auto-complete is at fault? (1)

fm6 (162816) | more than 6 years ago | (#22315656)

The user played a role, certainly (and I suspect that particularly lawyer is now unemployed). But when badly-designed software facilitates user error, then yes, the software deserve primary blame.

Good software takes into account the various flaws in the ad-hoc heuristic programming of carbon based units. Geeks never seem to grasp this, which is why so much end-user software is as usable for day-to-day tasks as a 50-pound hammer. Mail clients are particularly horrible. I use Thunderbird, not because it lacks usability bugs (hah!), but because it has fewer of them than any other email client.

It was on purpose. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22315054)

No doubt about it.

***Legal Notice*** and I mean it. (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22315056)

If you are not the intended recipient of this response, please disregard and forget this posting.

You are legally binded from reading, forwarding, printing, copying, remembering, discussing or in any other way acknowledging this post.

I am planning on robbing the bank on Fifth and Elm. Do not alert the police. Meet me at the warehouse after.

captcha:overlook

Re:***Legal Notice*** and I mean it. (1)

ozphx (1061292) | more than 6 years ago | (#22315242)

You are legally binded from reading, forwarding, printing, copying, remembering, discussing or in any other way acknowledging this post.


lol! ...

OH SHIT IM A DIRTY DIRTY PIRATE OF YOUR VALUABLE IP.

Please send $500 so I can expidite the clearance of your settlement to the amount of ONE (1) BILLION DOLLARS.

New feature! Auto-complete your career! (4, Funny)

syousef (465911) | more than 6 years ago | (#22315060)

Tired of that pesky work getting in the way of having fun? No problems, with our new email auto-complete, work will never be a problem again. Tired of looking competent. Too few opportunties to end your career over a simple typo? Problem solved with auto-complete. People will blame you the dumb user for making the smallest mistake at any time of the day or night and regardless of your workload. With auto-complete your career is guaranteed to end in the jiffiest of jiffies.

This happens to me all the time! (4, Interesting)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 6 years ago | (#22315064)

I've gotten stuff from all sorts of folks - including the Times - because my gmail address is just may last name, and people seem to always forget to include the first letter of a first name, or they leave off stuff before a period: bob.smith@gmail.com or bsmith@gmail.com becomes smith@gmail.com.

Re:This happens to me all the time! (3, Funny)

JazzyMusicMan (1012801) | more than 6 years ago | (#22315168)

How do you manage to notice emails from the Times and folks sifting through all the offers for a larger penis and requests to temporarily hold funds for nigerian family members

Re:This happens to me all the time! (1)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 6 years ago | (#22315458)

Ahem, I *said* it was Gmail... no ghetto spam filter here :)

I do get 30-50 spam messages a day, but they go into the spam bucket. It misses maybe 3 a month.

I use pine - never had any issues like this happen (1)

backslashdot (95548) | more than 6 years ago | (#22315070)

I use pine for my email, and I have never had these issues. The fact that I'm not a lawyer dealing with billion dollar settlements has nothing to do with it.

Pine? HA! (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22315138)

I telnet to port 25 and type my emails into the server by hand. If I screw up, I have to start over. You pine users have it easy.

Re:Pine? HA! (1)

dorix (414150) | more than 6 years ago | (#22315274)

Telnet? That's for sissies. Real email users use butterflies [xkcd.com] .

Good God! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22315180)

PINE! Egads, man, 'twas old in the nineties.

Re:I use pine - never had any issues like this hap (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22315386)

The fact that I'm not a lawyer dealing with billion dollar settlements has nothing to do with it.
That fact has everything to do with it.

Many corporates enforce (global) software suite standards like Lotus Notes. Enter the wrong address separator, say semi-colon instead of comma, and Lotus Nuts will helpfully choose someone with a similar looking name somewhere else in the world-wide corporate address book to send your mail to. No doubt lots of other apps masquerading as mail clients must have features like this.

I would kill for Thunderbird or gmail at my workplace, but it is Forbidden.

SLM

I don't know what Eli Lilly's lawyers charge (5, Insightful)

agrippa_cash (590103) | more than 6 years ago | (#22315080)

but I'm sure they can afford PGP/gnupg AND a highschool kid to show them how to use it.

It's funny, you know ... (5, Insightful)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 6 years ago | (#22315118)

but if I were running a major law firm that regularly handled confidential matters for multi-billion dollar clients ... I'd certainly encrypt the Hell out of every communication that left my offices. I mean, all they had to do was install some free (free!) encryption software like PGP, and there'd have been no problem.

Huh. I'll bet they will now.

Re:It's funny, you know ... (1)

ghakko (261165) | more than 6 years ago | (#22315376)

How would encryption have helped? The staffer in question did not have her mail intercepted, but mistakenly sent mail to the Times reporter.

Re:It's funny, you know ... (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 6 years ago | (#22315432)

If the thing was encrypted, the person without the private key couldn't decrypt its contents. Yes, they'd get an email message from the law firm, but it would do them no damned good.

Re:It's funny, you know ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22315734)

But if a email client with PGP integration is used, it would have happily chosen the public key of the (incorrect) recipient and encrypt to THAT.

Re:It's funny, you know ... (1)

bn0p (656911) | more than 6 years ago | (#22315434)

It's simple, the Times reporter would not have been able to read the e-mail in question.


Never let reality temper imagination

Re:It's funny, you know ... (1)

ywl (22227) | more than 6 years ago | (#22315480)

Only the right recipient will have the private key to read the email.

At least for gpg, there are two halves for a key. One is public for other people to encrypt the emails they send you. One is private that only you have - that is for decrypting the emails. So, if they had encrypted the email, the Times reporter would have only seen a bunch of gibberish. Other encryption algorithms should probably have a similar design.

GPG is not an encryption algorithm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22315714)

GPG is a piece of software which implements, among others, the RSA public key algorithm. If you rely on encryption you should at least know the basics.

Re:It's funny, you know ... (1)

immcintosh (1089551) | more than 6 years ago | (#22315530)

I think he means actual encryption of the textual content. As in, sending a PGP encoded block rather than plain text. You've probably seen the like:

-----BEGIN PGP MESSAGE-----
Followed by the identification of the program used to encrypt and then a lot of gibberish. It can (at least supposedly) only be decrypted by a person in possession of the private key matching the public key with which it was encrypted. Presumably Eli Lilly doesn't go around giving their private keys to news reporters :)

Re:It's funny, you know ... (1)

Curmudgeonlyoldbloke (850482) | more than 6 years ago | (#22315762)

You're right - a system such as PGP wouldn't have here. If the lawyer corresponded with both the journo and the colleague (which seems likely - both were in her personal address book) then an email program that encrypted using the public key of the intended recipient would simply have used the wrong public key.

Understanding how public key encryption works is different to ensuring that information stays secure...

I advised my attorney to encrypt (1)

MichaelCrawford (610140) | more than 6 years ago | (#22315666)

She had one of those disclaimers for her sig. I pointed out that there were lots of ways that her email could be intercepted. She replied that her concern was not that someone might read her email, but that she would be held liable for allowing it. She said that the disclaimer absolved her of that liability.

IMHO, that's just wrong.

Clients are the problem here (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22315806)

Saying and thinking that all email should be encrypted is fine, but law is a service industry.
If the client doesn't want to encrypt things, you can't.

The client pays the bills; they call the tunes.

Every client has some different cock-i-may-me procedure for everything and you need to follow that procedure for that client. PGP may be a nice SOP (standard operating procedure) but in a law firm there is no SOP.

Very Nasty Stuff (5, Interesting)

grumpygrodyguy (603716) | more than 6 years ago | (#22315120)

Zyprexa

I was on this terrible crap for a while...after 2 weeks I had gained 15 pounds (not exaggerating).

I remember finding myself on the candy Isle at the supermarket shoveling 12-packs of twix, snickers, and all kinds of other candy into my shopping cart...and I usually don't eat sweets.

These 'medications' are really horrible...it's sad that so many people believe schizophrenia is easily treated with them. Big pharma marketdroids are mostly to blame. In fact, after 6 months, 80% of the people on these medications quit (I suspect the other 20% are forced to take it by hospital staff)...they actually prefer being crazy (unable to work, take care of themselves, go to public places, etc.) rather than take them...the side-effects are that bad.

Re:Very Nasty Stuff (4, Informative)

Shados (741919) | more than 6 years ago | (#22315206)

Whats to blame is the psychiatrists. They're virtually trained (and not by the big pharams, though they don't help) that meds are the cure to everything, as opposed to psychologists. I remember reading statistics showing that the VAST majority of people who go see a psychiatrist end up with a prescription, regardless of if they truly had problems.

The best example is the insane amount of kids with an ADD diagnostic... sure, there ARE people who are truly chemically imbalanced and such, and need treatments of some kind...I really feel for these people. The rest just need some discipline stuck in their head. As far as I know (and I know quite a few people in the field), most people getting these prescriptions don't even pass a fraction of the tests that would be required to make a proper diagnostic. The psychiatrist just go by "guts feeling".

And then you end up on mind control medication.... You're "better", but you're not "you" anymore... Some treatments are required... some mental illness CAN be treated... but in general, whats available right now is just a big cash cow, not treatments.

Re:Very Nasty Stuff (1)

DdJ (10790) | more than 6 years ago | (#22315248)

As far as I know (and I know quite a few people in the field), most people getting these prescriptions don't even pass a fraction of the tests that would be required to make a proper diagnostic. The psychiatrist just go by "guts feeling".

FWIW, I had to go through tests to get my prescription. And I've tried a few -- tried to switch to the non-stimulant Stratera a few years back, and some of the side effects from that attempt have still not gone away yet.

Re:Very Nasty Stuff (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22315330)

Thank you Mr. Cruise...

Re:Very Nasty Stuff (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22315782)

Mod parent +1 Glib.

Re:Very Nasty Stuff (2, Insightful)

repapetilto (1219852) | more than 6 years ago | (#22315368)

First of all I want you to just realize that you're grouping all psychiatrists together here just based on the bad ones. And second of all its a job like any other. Really don't trust your body to doctors or psychiatrists or anyone like that, they are people just like you who do the same half assed things sometimes. The only difference is that they're more informed so their half-assed opinion is better than yours. If you're ever confronted with someone prescribing something for you do your own research to the best of your ability, or at least get second/third opinions.

Re:Very Nasty Stuff (1)

Shados (741919) | more than 6 years ago | (#22315522)

I group psychiatrists based on the majority. This was a post in a discussion, I didn't write an article on the subject, and considering the attention span of the average forum dweller, and the type of discussions we find on these forums, I don't bother posting more than that.

Of course, that also means your reaction is fully justified, so I understand, no biggy.

That being said, its a bit like veterinarian and pet food: they're simply not trained (or have very little training in the matter), so they suggest things through the same kind of research you and I could do...they know the rest of the field amazingly well, so their opinion is still more informed than yours or mind (well, unless I'm replying to a vet right now :) ), but its still not their speciality, and you have to take it with a grain of salt.

Psychiatrists in general have extensive training in the discipline, INCLUDING in the parts not involving the chemical treatements. However, the later is their specialty and the part they are more used to. So they will systematically prescribe stuff even if its not required, because to the best of their training, its the way to go. Some of them definately elevate themselves above that generalisation: I know more a couple myself. But the majority will not. Its just another job.

Heck, in Slashdot speak: if you go up to an Oracle specialist and ask him about a data center performance problem you have, they'll tailor you an architecture revolving around the Oracle database, make you a quote, and be on their way. Only the best and most professional of them will have the knowledge and decency to say "Hmm...you know, Oracle is really overkill for what you're doing...ever thought about MySQL?"

Re:Very Nasty Stuff (1)

repapetilto (1219852) | more than 6 years ago | (#22315766)

Right, thats exactly what I was saying. The problem is people expect people in the medical/research field to be "more professional" (turns out I've been disappointed by the lack of this) than people with other more mundane jobs, when thats just not realistic. Just take how much you care each individual client/customer and add ten of whatever defines your scale to it and thats how much more they really care; and thats just because the stakes are higher so theres more prestige or personal achievement (could be an ego boost due to helping somebody, I'm not saying altruism plays no role) to be gained or lost.

Re:Very Nasty Stuff (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22315658)

Focusyn! The only thing more effective is regular exercise!

Re:Very Nasty Stuff (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22315454)

And was it really you who got the extra 15 pounds, or was it one of your "other" selfs?

Re:Very Nasty Stuff (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22315538)

You're supposed to tell your Doctor if you experience urges of that kind while taking Zyprexa, it's one of the side effects some people experience. Now, the vast majority - myself included - are effectively treated with no side-effects and can therefore go on to lead productive and happy lives. And Zyprexa is a hell of a lot better than the previous treatment, haldol, which is a butcher of a medication. So much so that the instant Zyprexa, an effective replacement, became available haldol was dropped like the proverbial hot-potato. Also Zyprexa will not cause uncontrollable muscle movement after 20 years like haldol.

If autocomplete hasn't been blamed... (1)

bitflip (49188) | more than 6 years ago | (#22315162)

...I'm sure that it will be.

The settlement (1)

repapetilto (1219852) | more than 6 years ago | (#22315212)

So how was the drug inappropriately marketed? and why is that allowed to be kept confidential? and where does the money go if the government won the case?

see... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22315214)

this sort of thing wouldnt happen if people implemented propper DRM on sensitive content.

Um, no. (5, Insightful)

Minwee (522556) | more than 6 years ago | (#22315234)

Some online observers are speculating that auto-complete is to blame, but this has not been confirmed.

As I tried to explain to one of the Three Letter Acronyms of our company this morning, "Auto-Complete" is not to blame. "Not Paying Attention" is to blame. If you can't be bothered to look at who you are sending stuff like this to, then please step back from the computer and have someone else handle complicated things like email for you.

Surely if you are doing billion dollar deals then you can afford to hire someone capable of working a keyboard without embarrassing him or herself.

Re:Um, no. (3, Insightful)

vux984 (928602) | more than 6 years ago | (#22315662)

As I tried to explain to one of the Three Letter Acronyms of our company this morning, "Auto-Complete" is not to blame.

Agreed.

"Not Paying Attention" is to blame.

Yes, but mistakes happen. You can't just tell people 'pay more attention' and expect that to solve all problems.

If you can't be bothered to look at who you are sending stuff like this to, then please step back from the computer and have someone else handle complicated things like email for you.

Surely if you are doing billion dollar deals then you can afford to hire someone capable of working a keyboard without embarrassing him or herself.


The sarcasm was unwarranted, but the idea is right. If you are dealing with really sensitive material, it should be vetted by a 2nd set of eyes before its released.

And in any case it holds it in the outbox for 5 minutes before actually sending, so if you have one of those... "push send... oh shit"... moments you can still stop it from being sent.

And maybe something can be done at the software level, like a custom email client that requires you enter a passphrase that encrypts the email . The software won't send without a passphrase, and the recipient must know the passphrase to open the email. Each case file would have its own passphrase, and the case file is included in the message. So if the email reached the wrong recipient they wouldn't know the passphrase and couldn't read the message.

You could speed the process up by maintaining a dictionary of cases and passphrases, and let the recipients automatically open any email in the passphrase dictionary, and rather then enter a passphrase have them enter a case number. So, anyone involved with the case would have to add the passphrase-case number pair to their dictionary just once.

Its not bullet proof... I'm sure better solutions exist. but it would be more effective at dealing with this sort of mistake than either 'typing in the address each time', or 'yelling pay more attention' at people.

You'd use a separate email program entirely for casual non-sensitive communication with your family, friends, reporters, your chauffer, dog groomer, and staples representative...

Pardon the pedantry...misleading headline (4, Informative)

holden caufield (111364) | more than 6 years ago | (#22315250)

The headline is misleading. Eli Lilly was going to pay the $1 billion anyway, regardless of who received the email. They simply didn't want anyone to know about that.

Re:Pardon the pedantry...misleading headline (1)

jadin (65295) | more than 6 years ago | (#22315414)

Exactly, for the moment the mistake costs them zero. Horrible headline.

Re:Pardon the pedantry...misleading headline (2, Informative)

timeOday (582209) | more than 6 years ago | (#22315436)

Yup, from reading the story, it appears all that Eli-Lilly lost was the opportunity to manage the announcement of the penalty. BFD. At least, not a $1 BN mistake by any means.

What about the disclaimer in the footer? (1)

Alereon (660683) | more than 6 years ago | (#22315258)

So how legally enforceable are all those disclaimers I get in the footers of e-mails warning me that the e-mail is confidential and if I am not the intended recipient of the e-mail I am required to delete it immediately?

Re:What about the disclaimer in the footer? (1)

BitZtream (692029) | more than 6 years ago | (#22315342)

They aren't.

Re:What about the disclaimer in the footer? (2, Interesting)

cswiger (63672) | more than 6 years ago | (#22315374)

Not very-- especially if the email disclaimer makes unilateral demands and you have no prior relationship with the sender. On the other hand, if you previously agree to have a confidential discussion, and then break that agreement, the disclaimer might be enforcable. There's a site here:

http://www.goldmark.org/jeff/stupid-disclaimers/ [goldmark.org] ...with more detailed analysis of this.

Re:What about the disclaimer in the footer? (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 6 years ago | (#22315390)

IANAL - I can't see how it would actually hold up in court.

Re:What about the disclaimer in the footer? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22315542)

They're not. Especialy if you are in a foreign country on the other side of the world.
[Like I am!]

Why was the address there? (5, Interesting)

grub (11606) | more than 6 years ago | (#22315280)


Why was the reporter's email address already in the lawyer's address book? They should check his mail logs and see what else he send to that person before.

ID10T (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 6 years ago | (#22315288)

The problem is between the chair and the keyboard.

Tell Me About It (4, Funny)

corby (56462) | more than 6 years ago | (#22315292)

Dudes, you should see the crazy shit I get.

Signed,
Pritchard Cheney

Been there, done that. (1)

ChangeOnInstall (589099) | more than 6 years ago | (#22315308)

I left one company and went to another. Email addresses were identical but for the domains, i.e., myname@oldcompany.com/myname@newcompany.com. Friends who had me in their work address books (Outlook/Exchange setups) reported that they simply could not get rid of the old entry. Every time they typed my name in, Outlook would complete the old address. The new address was present in the address book, and the old one was nowhere to be found.

encryption? (2, Funny)

hardtofindanick (1105361) | more than 6 years ago | (#22315346)

It's interesting how some people are suggesting using encryption. I wouldn't be surprised to see an email like this; "Dear Eli, attached is the encrypted document. Regards, Your laywer PS: the password is zomg!1billion"

Value of the boilerplate? (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 6 years ago | (#22315350)

Almost all the mails coming out of many corporations have some standard boilerplate appended to them. Something like, this email communication is super confidential and if you got it by mistake, promptly delete it or we will come and sue you, your brother and your guardian angel too. Really really bizarre language, sometimes stretching for half a screen or more, with the actual email contents less than one line. So are these lawyers going to find the value of adding that boilerplate or what?

No auto complete is NOT to blame (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 6 years ago | (#22315354)

the person who couldn't be bothered to check is to blame.
This is like blaming spell checker for a spelling mistake.

legal situation? (1)

apodyopsis (1048476) | more than 6 years ago | (#22315424)

hmm. there was an instance recently of a legal firm getting a court to agree that publication of their letters was an offense. whats the legal ground here? I presume the document had legal statements included in the front of it - but I assume they are only applicable if they are signed or does journalistic laws cover this as free speech?

I'm kinda hoping somebody with more knowledge on this subject can help me out so when the scoop of a lifetime lands in my inbox I can do something about it! Presumably the times journalist is smart enough not to publish if he runs the risk of being sued.

Eli Lilly and Bush (1, Offtopic)

j_m_downing (980759) | more than 6 years ago | (#22315474)

Slightly offtopic: Eli Lilly is another of the creepy companies the Bush family has deep ties with. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eli_Lilly_Controversy#Eli_Lilly_and_the_Bush_Family [wikipedia.org] Are they just attracted to grody companies of dubious morals, or do they help make them that way?

This is why secrecy is bad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22315590)

Do you want to solve all of the world's problems? Let is all out, let it all be public information.

This includes: your tax returns, your paychecks, your bank statements.

This also include your politician's tax returns, paychecks, and their bank statements.

Also: Blackwater's tax returns, paychecks, and their bank statements.

And Pharma Industry's tax returns, paychecks, and their bank statements. ... and so forth.

What? You ain't got nothing to hide? Let's all see the flow of interest money for what it is.

I take ten milligrams of Zyprexa every day (5, Informative)

MichaelCrawford (610140) | more than 6 years ago | (#22315616)

I take it for my schizoaffective disorder [geometricvisions.com] . I didn't make the decision to take Zyprexa lightly - I was and still am concerned it could give me diabetes.

But schizoaffective disorder is a devastating illness: it's just like being manic-depressive and schizophrenic at the same time. The risperdal I took previously for my psychotic symptoms wasn't working anymore. From 2003 through 2007, I was in the emergency room five times for psychiatric reasons, culminating in an ambulance ride to the mental ward, where I stayed for three weeks.

The Zyprexa completely eliminates the paranoia and visual hallucinations I would otherwise have almost all the time. It also brought me down from the bipolar mania that led to my ambulance ride, and prevents me from getting manic anymore.

As a result of taking it, I am able to hold a steady job - and a good one - as a software engineer, to provide for my wife and to pay her University tuition.

I've heard rumours that Zyprexa might be withdrawn from the market. I really hope that doesn't happen, as I've never had a medicine work so well.

Hey Hey! This IS /. (1)

Sfing_ter (99478) | more than 6 years ago | (#22315626)

This is slashdot so it must be Microsoft's fault, it IS that easy.

I had this happen the other day... (1)

Loco3KGT (141999) | more than 6 years ago | (#22315750)

I had a lady from my company's payroll send me the list of 70+ people and their annual bonuses for this last year. I'm a programmer, the email was intended for a VP with the same last name.
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