Technologist - The FindLaw Legal Technology Blog

Should Lawyers Use the Email Tracking Tool Sidekick?

Wonder if opposing counsel has read your scheduling email yet? Want to know if your new associates actually followed the link you sent them? Outlook or Gmail can't help, but Sidekick can. Sidekick is an email tracking tool that allows you to see when emails are opened, when recipients follow links, and a whole lot more.

It can be a helpful addition to email, but suffice it to say, there are plenty of privacy and ethics implications as well. Should lawyers consider making Sidekick their email sidekick?

Sidekick Really Works

First, the good. It's easy to create an account and integrate Sidekick into your email. From there, Sidekick tracks any email you want, not just those you send to other Sidekick users. For example, to test the program out I sent a simple message to Chris Coble, our consumer blogs senior writer. Sidekick notified me right when he read the email and clicked an internal link. (It was opened in seconds! Thanks for being so responsive, Chris.) I was also able to search through Chris' activity stream, seeing which of my emails he had looked at and when. Heck, Sidekick even told me when I looked at my own emails.

Of course, the tracking wasn't perfect. When emails are sent out to multiple recipients, you usually lose individual tracking. Instead, you're just told that "someone" looked at the email, though Sidekick still identified that said someone worked for Thomson Reuters.

You Didn't Think the Spying Was One Way, Did You?

Then there's the bad. You thought spying on others would be benign? No way. Sidekick doesn't just track who looks at your emails, it tracks you. Sidekick has access to your information, including your email, the recipient's email, and the subject and body of message. That's definitely something to worry about if you're dealing with confidential communications.

Sidekick works through the Google Chrome browser and requires that you install a Chrome extension. That extension will launch at start up and run in the background, even if you've closed Chrome. Integrating Sidekick with your email, which is necessary for full functionality, also requires giving it more and more access, including access to your contact list and offline access.

Finally, if you're moonlighting on the sly or thinking about changing firms, you should be careful of Sidekick. Sidekick's "Email Connections" feature allows you to link your work mail to Sidekick through Gmail. Sidekick then shares data with your organization about your emails with other companies, according to their privacy policy.

You, and any other Sidekick user, will see "the names of your coworkers who have sent emails to that company domain, along with the name of the contact they've corresponded with at that company." That includes information from your entire email history, including those sent before installing Sidekick. This is not a feature we'd suggest enabling.

Our conclusion? Sidekick might be worthwhile if you do a lot of email marketing and want to track its effectiveness. In that case, though, you'll want to make sure your marketing is from a separate, quarantined account, and that you keep a critical eye on your privacy settings. For us, Sidekick is a no go when it comes to confidential or legal communications. The privacy and ethics complications are just too great.

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