An email I had received as a part of a Reply-All chain included information not intended to me (or any of the CC'd people really). Is it ethical to make inquiries on issues that I wouldn't know unless I read all the chained replies in the email?

To elaborate: An email I received on a technical problem in equipment on site A (which is my job to know and followup). However, I was not included in the original email which included the same equipment being installed on site A and B.

From: Dan Technical
To: Maintenance group
CC: My Department group, ...
Title: RE:MOM with XYZ on Feb 30

Hey can you fix equipment in site A?

From: Technical Manager
To: Dan Technical
CC: Technical group, ...
Title: RE:MOM with XYZ on Feb 30

We have problem in ABC equipment in site A.


From: Sarah Assistant
CC: Managers
Title: MOM with XYZ on Feb 30

As discussed we installed ABC equipment in Site A and B.

The point here that I wouldn't know about ABC equipment in site B.
Is it ethical (or legal) to inquire on equipment installed on site B?


My question is about inquiring on equipment on site B. Can I ask questions about site B equipment and prepare to have maintenance on it? (ordering spare parts, requesting layouts and diagrams), ie: planning ahead in case we get the responsibility of maintaining equipment in site B

Site B existence isn't confidential, it's just information I'm not expected to know if someone in the reply chain wasn't lazy and started a new email chain on the maintenance order.
Maintenance responsibility for site B is not (yet?) transferred to us. Planning ahead reduces downtime greatly since procuring spare parts takes a long time, and these parts can be used in site A too (same equipment). However I can't order extra spare parts for site A on top of what we have already in stock.

  • Is this information which you actively shouldn't know (e.g. Site B is a super-secret site and the fact they're using ABC reveals something important) or information which you just didn't happen to know? Mar 12, 2018 at 10:51
  • 4
    What is your purpose in inquiring about site B? Is this about getting more work / billables or something?
    – Lilienthal
    Mar 12, 2018 at 11:34
  • @Lilienthal It's for planning ahead for maintenance. Mar 12, 2018 at 12:32
  • @PhilipKendall It's information I'm not expected to know (not secret but was not shared with me officially) Mar 12, 2018 at 12:34
  • @Down voters: please clarify how can I make my question a better question. Mar 12, 2018 at 13:15

3 Answers 3


This is a question for your boss. Write an email like so:

Dear Boss, Attached is an email regarding maintenance of site B. I know we're not responsible for site B but we have a lot of spare parts that could help them. Can we help them?

when you get yes or no, you do that.

  • We do not have the spare parts for Site B. We have spare parts intended for Site A. Whether we get the responsibility of maintaining site B is unclear. But when we do, we have to order spare parts for site B and that takes a month for the parts to arrive. Mar 12, 2018 at 12:40
  • Definitely follow up with someone who in the chain of command for site B, especially if the problem has potential to cause injury if left unattended. I wouldn't go so far as to order parts or anything, but absolutely make sure someone on the Site B team is aware this may be a problem.
    – Steve-O
    Mar 12, 2018 at 13:31

Respond to what you need to and differentiate the stuff you're not involved with..


I'm working on the problem with site A, I assume someone else is working on site B (as this isn't our responsibility).

The thing here is that you're preventing people assuming that you're working on both sites.

  • My question was about inquiring on equipment on site B. Can I ask questions about site B equipment and prepare to have maintenance on it? (ordering spare parts, requesting layouts and diagrams) Mar 12, 2018 at 10:32
  • Surely that's up to your managers? How are we supposed to know?
    – user44108
    Mar 12, 2018 at 10:49

Yes, proceed as if you had been given this information officially.

This is a business matter that you said is not confidential. You should not feel as though you are not supposed to know this information. This is especially true when someone forwards you an email chain; they should expect that you are now aware of everything in the chain.

Now, should you send an email asking about the information you have learned? Only if it is your responsibility to do so. It sounds like you are not responsible for Site B at the moment, but that you could be in the future and are trying to plan ahead. This doesn't seem directly related to the current conversation, so I definitely wouldn't reply to this thread. If you think it is pertinent to your job to inquire about the status of site B, then do so in a new email.

For your situation I would start by asking the appropriate person if you will be responsible for Site B in the future. If they say no, or don't know the answer yet, then I would leave it there. It doesn't make sense to order parts for something unless you know it is or will be your responsibility. If they say that it will for sure be transferred to you, then you can think about asking the relevant people at Site B for the information you will need.

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