At times, I may be speaking to someone and think it would be a good idea for them to contact someone else:

"Oh! You should really speak to [insert name here], let me find [his/her] contact details for you..."

Other times, the person I am speaking to may ask me to provide a list of contacts:

"Could you send me a list of people you think could help with [this project]?"

Is it acceptable in either or both cases to share someone else's contact details with a third party?

If someone's details were to be shared, is it essential to then contact that person and let them know (even if there's no guarantee the third party will get in touch)?

If I wish to share someone's details, is it best to ask them first and, if it's not possible to do this, is it best not to share that person's details?

(An example of when it might not be possible is in the case of situation 1 above, where it would be weird to say:

"Excuse me, I'll just call [insert name here] and ask them if they mind me sharing their details with you..."

Another example might be when the third party has time restrictions, or the person you wish to share the details of is not available.)

  • 2
    Please explain the down-vote, so I can improve :)
    – m-smith
    Commented Sep 5, 2013 at 13:57

3 Answers 3


When in doubt, always reverse the direction of contact.

Say to X: "I might know someone" (Y) "Shall I ask him/her to contact you? No promises, he'll either contact you or not".

You could ask X specifically what message to convey to Y, then leave it up to Y to contact X.

This has the added benefit that both X and Y give (only) the contact information they want.


Email addresses are personal information, and in this day and age personal information is a sought-out ware which is traded at high prices by data-miners. When you give away someones contact information to a 3rd party, you never know who they might sell it to.

Many countries (especially in Europe) have data retention laws which put limits on sharing personal information, so when you give away personal information without autorisation you could technically break these laws (ask a lawyer).

Personally I would not want people to give my email address to strangers, because it always raises suspicion in me when people I don't know contact me via a non-public address. I greatly prefer it when people ask me for permission before they share my email address with someone I don't know.

Full disclosure: I am part of a political organization with the goal to improve privacy of citizens, so I might be more sensitive than most people in this regard.


In general, it is OK to share the business email of a colleague at your company when responding to a business need.

However, I would never share a personal email address without checking with the person first.

And it can be tricky sharing the business email of someone who doesn't work for your company. If you are in an organization together (like a committee to put on a conference) and the business is related to that then it would be fine. If they are contractors who work directly with your business and will need to be involved in whatever the business is, then fine.

If they are clients, I would probably ask before sharing and I would definitely ask before sharing for a non-business need (say if someone might want to send them an unsolicited resume or business proposal).

If the person you are giving it to is a recruiter, then do not share without permission.

  • 3
    It is not always appropriate to share the business email of a colleague just because of a business need. For example, a developer who is working with customer support to fix a customer issue. If the customer gets the developer's direct email, s/he will often stop going to CS and go straight to the engineer. This prevents CS from triaging well-known issues, call/bug tracking that represent software quality, and interrupts the developer's development work for customer support work (important where dev doesn't typically do cs). I prefer Jan Doggen's approach.
    – atk
    Commented Sep 5, 2013 at 15:38
  • Very few company employees are protected from the clients. If you know the group is generally not accessible to a particuar group, don't give it out, but honestly more clients have gotten my email from someone making me a copy to on an email I needed to see than from people giving them to the client. It is rare that the situation would come up in business terms that you would provide such an email. However, if you have developers stupid enough that they can't handle emails sent to them from clients by pushing them back up to the the level they belong at, you need to get rid of them.
    – HLGEM
    Commented Sep 5, 2013 at 18:35
  • It doesn't take stupidity to have people get backed up by unnecessary emails. You may not have personally experienced it, but customers seeking support (as in my example) can easily clog an inbox. Stupidity has nothing to do with the time it takes to sift through tens or hundreds of emails a day. nothing to do with the time cost to forward these emails to the proper level. Developer stupidity has nothing to do with a customer refusing to use the proper channel. You may live in an ideal world where things work perfectly, but where the rest of us live things are usually a lot more squishy
    – atk
    Commented Sep 6, 2013 at 0:08
  • I've actually gotten a lot of client emails trying to move around the system. It only takes a few times sending the email to the right people (including returning it to the person with an email telling them the process) and refusing to work on it until it is properly in the queue before they stop.
    – HLGEM
    Commented Sep 6, 2013 at 10:49
  • I'm not doubting that this is tour experience. Inam sure that you have had much success with this. It is, unfortunately, representative of everywhere.
    – atk
    Commented Sep 6, 2013 at 22:28

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