An asterisk is no defence.

A friend of mine works in the IT department of a large company. This company has a high public profile, and provides a service to millions of personal customers.

Recently, my friend sent a short personal e-mail, using his company’s e-mail account. This e-mail contained the word “shit”.

Or rather, it didn’t contain the word “shit”, as my friend had prudently replaced the letter “i” with an asterisk. Like so: sh*t.

Shortly after sending the e-mail, my friend received a phone call from the head of his company’s security team, who informed him that the e-mail had been intercepted and blocked, and that using an asterisk in the middle of a word was not enough to stop it from being censored.

I was going to describe this as “using a sledgehammer to crack a nut”, but I fear my friend might never forgive me if I did. However, if – laying any privacy issues to one side – you can supply a sound business case justification, then I for one would be fascinated to hear it.

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