Where science and tech meet creativity.


Inbox Trust (TM) is one of those things you have to be really careful with. The reason people are able to spread malware and bilk too many people out of money is the same reason people sometimes take the wrong person home at the end of a date. The person crying over the “perfect guy” who disappeared after leaving a false phone number  is the same sort of person who cries over the Nigerian prince who abused the bank account numbers they shared – Both sets of people misplaced their trust because they wanted something to good to be true to fast.

You need to know whose links you can trust, which attachments can be safely opened, and to whom you can share minor confidences without fear of forward.

What always gets me is the people who try and force inbox trust, and how often people fall prey to this. In some ways it is like any forced vulnerability. We’ve all been there in real life – there is that late night conversation with an acquaintance (or even a newly met person) that somehow leds to over sharing at 4am. They say “Can I trust you?” and we all want to be trusted, so too often everyone ends up saying too much, and through this shared vulnerability friendship is created. There is a difference between a face to face moment of TMI, and someone in your inbox asking for confidentiality. As the saying goes, on the internet, anyone can authenticate their dog. You just don’t know who or what is really behind that message you’re getting. At least when that middle of the night TMI turns out to have occurred with a crazy person, you know who that person is and how to get them back out of your life as needed. With your inbox, that crazy person can just come back with a new and improved user name.

I often get emails like the one I screen captured above. They start with the “Can I trust you?” theme. They then ask me to do something that will endanger myself to prove I’m trust worthy; open an attachment, send bank numbers, etc etc. It is psychologically clever. I bet lots of people fall prey to these attempts to scam / infect / harm them and their privacy/identity. Just by saying, “Can I trust you?” they are priming people to do things that prove they are deserving of trust.

The other type of email I get a lot also starts with “Can I trust you?” but it is a type that makes me sad because they come from mislead individuals who don’t realize how dumb they are being. These are people who say “Can I trust you? Will you please keep the following in complete confidence?” and they go on to describe some science theory they have or some other issue they have that they want my assistance with. These people are assuming, based on the person I appear to be online, that they can trust me, and they reach out to me without introduction. Now the thing is, the person I play online is actually pretty true to who I am, so people who reach out to me and make themselves vulnerable are safe, but it makes me worry. Not everyone out there is the person they play online. If someone struggling with something reaches out to the wrong blogger, they could get mocked by name online.

As we all become more an more virtual, we need to change how we interact. Yes, we all still want to be trusted, but we need to all also be much more careful in the venues in which we give our trust, and in which we give trust to others. If you say something online, always ask yourself, “Am I prepared for what I said to be blogged?” Ask yourself, “Am I ready for my email conversation to get forwarded to friends, family, employers?” Ask yourself, are you ready to be digitally stripped naked?

Trust is a hard thing, and as we become more and more digital, the levels of trust we must have are getting greater and greater. Protect your selves, and be aware of the psychology of the simple phrase “Can I trust you?” And remember the other old adage, if they have to ask, then answer is probably no.