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SPAM A CRIMINAL PRIVACY ISSUE
 

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HIPAA

PRIVACYnotes Discussion List
Security Protecting Privacy is Good for Business

Security Respecting Privacy on the Web

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Privacynotes Digest
Security Protecting Privacy is Good for Business

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Published by: Mike Banks Valentine
privacy@privacynotes.com www.privacynotes.com
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August 8, 2002 Issue # 021
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.....IN THIS DIGEST.....

// -- MODERATOR COMMENT-- //

"Spam A Criminal Privacy Issue?" ~ Mike Banks Valentine

// -- CONTINUING DISCUSSION -- //

"P3P Editor Article" ~ Moderator Note ~ Bob Chambers

"Privacy for the Poor" ~ Nancy Ryan

// -- PRIVACY NEWS -- //

"The Latest in Privacy Issues"

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// -- SPAM A CRIMINAL PRIVACY ISSUE? -- //

Spam is a crime. Until now it's been a nuisance. Now it's becoming absolutely criminal, wrong, outrageous and destructive! The topic of UCE or unsolicited commercial email has always raised the temperature of otherwise rational professionals when the topic pops up in polite conversation. That conversation will inevitably get heated in even the best of situations. It's becoming so inflamed among web professionals that it cannot be rationally discussed between intelligent humans who diverge only slightly in their viewpoints -- which is highly likely.

As a privacy advocate, I am compelled to share with everyone that I work with where I stand on the spam issue in relation to my work as a search engine optimization specialist. I've recently been hired to work regularly with a client that actively and openly spams in order to gain business leads. The work I'm doing for them doesn't spam the search engines with submissions or unethical techniques so it clearly separates me from what I consider to be unethical behavior.

I felt compelled to share with that company that I'm staunchly opposed to spam and UCE and that I insist my name not be connected in any way with their promotions, er . . . their spamming campaigns. I clearly stated that I was opposed to the tactic and requested that they not use my efforts to seek to gather more illegitimate lists. They agreed, fortunately.

I'd like to openly ask you here, web professionals, how you are affected by spam and whether you consider it to be a privacy issue. I'd like to ask that question in context of how it affects business directly for YOU.

I think the issue is reaching the point where it compares to working for offline companies that produce harmful products such as tobacco, guns and alcohol. Spam is harmful, expensive and unethical in my opinion.

I worked as a professional photographer for 20 years and found that many ad agencies, art directors, illustrators, photographers, printers, etc. would refuse work connected with guns, alcohol and tobacco products while others saw absolutely no connection between their photograph, artwork, design and the clients' attempts to encourage the unhealthful or dangerous use/abuse of those harmful products. This goes directly to the heart of the spam/UCE controversy depending on your stance.

Will you never again consider buying drugs from Eli Lilly company because they exposed the email addresses of several prozac customers to public scrutiny, whether done intentionally or not? Will you offer your copywriting services, your web design services, your programming services, your marketing services, your time - to companies who violate privacy online by spamming everyone whose email address they can illegitimately harvest or purchase?

I find that I need to start drawing the line myself now, more and more often as I chose work from among available clients. I have turned away work from online casinos because I personally believe that online gambling can be addictive and financially ruinous to those who participate. They also actively spam, harvest email addresses, practice search engine spamming and deceptively advertise with pop-under windows I didn't chose to see.

Where do you draw the line? Until I had to sign up for a paid service to clean my emailbox of spam, my line was gray and flexible. It's becoming increasingly black and white and more rigid as I see abuses eroding my own business activity online.

I own and distribute several email lists and find that my subscribers often write asking why they didn't receive their newsletter today or for some length of time. When I go to the list owner administration and search their name, I find that they are still subscribed. This means one of two equally distasteful things to me. Either that subscriber is so inundated with spam that they are quickly deleting much of their own email without reading it, or, they subscribe to an internet service provider that is aggressively filtering member emails for spam.

All I can do in this case is include references to spam filtering articles for them to read, reassure them that they are still subscribed to my own list and suggest they speak with their provider about why they are not receiving things they are indeed subscribed to, and very much want to receive! I actively encourage them to change providers if they don't get emails they very much want to receive regularly and aren't able to.

False positives for Spamfilters are the biggest issue in filtering discussions. Editors and online columnists must carefully choose their words to avoid filtering by server-side filtering and even simple client-side filtering rules set up in Outlook Express preferences.

The difference between my paid filtering service and those used by many internet service providers is that I have full control and access to filtered emails. It is my choice how sensitive those filters are and it is my choice if I want to receive emails that include supposedly "banned" words or phrases. This is a form of puritan prudery to censor emails because they include terms like "Viagra" or "Mortgage" or "HGH" or even "$" dollar signs.

This is what causes false positives and removal of much valued and legitimate email from subscribers entirely without their knowledge and/or approval.

The control needs to be put in the hands of the end-user. NOT taken from them without their knowledge. Server-side filtering is as big a crime as is the spamming that makes it's use supposedly necessary.

It's beginning to severely hurt my business that some web hosts are removing my emails from subscriber inboxes without their knowledge or approval. This came about because SOMETHING has to be done to stem the tide of spam crashing in around all of us. Service providers are reacting by taking the control and consent out of the hands of their customers AND out of the control of legitimate list owners.

Spam is slowly killing online business (as if we needed anything additional to drag down the internet economy) and something must be done to stop it. This very email discussion list will be filtered by some hosts and not received by subscribers to this list because of terms used above in reference to false positives. There should be choice involved here.

What are you doing and where do you stand? You cannot stay neutral for very much longer if you want to see email remain standing as a useful tool for online business.

 

// -- CONTINUING DISCUSSION -- //

===> TOPIC: P3P CONFUSING

Note: I had asked Bob Chambers offline about P3P editors and I'm sure his comments will be of interest to the rest of the list. The P3P editor will be fairly mandatory for non-techy folks like yours truly. I haven't got a clue about how the XML stuff works so I'll be relying on the software to write that for me.

Moderator

From: Bob Chambers

Here is an article about P3P that just came out today:

http://makeashorterlink.com/?C13861671

Best wishes,

Bob Chambers

E-Commerce Manager http://unitrindirect.com

 

// -- CONTINUING DISCUSSION -- //

===> TOPIC: PRIVACY FOR THE POOR

From: Nancy Ryan

Terri Robinson said:

>> The same people who get foodstamps and AFDC probably already have a bank account with a debit card, so the EBT won't be anything different in that respect. Their privacy is already "compromised" in today's high tech world. <<

We are forgetting one major distinction between Electronic Benefits Transfer of public assistance monies and the rest of us using our credit or debit cards.

You and I, using our credit or debit cards, know that information about our purchases is likely being stockpiled in a number of places. If we choose to use the credit and debit cards for convenience, that may be part of our trade-off.

But for recipients of public assistance whose foodstamps will now be locked into a little plastic card for use in those machines at the grocery store, there is no choice. Paper food stamps are not an option. No exceptions. The only way a person receiving food stamps can maintain anonymity regarding their purchases is to pay cash. But of course, if they could pay cash, they wouldn't need food stamps.

I don't use the Safeway Club Card because I resent the fact that they track purchases. I am very grateful that I don't need food stamps, and the loss of privacy that would entail.

 

// -- PRIVACY NEWS -- //

Moderator note: There are two ways to access previously listed privacy news stories. One is to visit Privacynotes archives, the other (simpler) way is to visit

http://privacynotes.com/privacy_news.html where I also keep a privacy news archive.

A group of Bell Labs computer researchers describe new network security software yesterday intended to protect personal digital information and increase security when connecting to remote computers and Web sites. The technology, designed for individual and corporate use, is significant because it does not require the centralized structure now necessary with many existing software security systems. Moreover, it could become a widely used and free alternative to similar software that is being developed by companies like Microsoft and Sun Microsystems. The two programs, Factotum and Secure Store, will be described in a technical paper to be given by the researchers at the Usenix computer security conference scheduled to begin yesterday in San Francisco.

http://www.nytimes.com/2002/08/07/technology/07SECU.html

Japan put into operation a national computerized registry of its citizens today, provoking two un-Japanese responses: civil disobedience and a widespread feeling that privacy should take priority over efficiency. Yokohama, Japan's second largest city, made the national government's registry voluntary, and half a dozen other cities refused to be included in the computerized system connecting local registries, effectively leaving four million people out of the system. But a much larger mass of angry public opinion was behind this visible resistance. Critics noted that the government had labored for three years to produce the system on time, but had been unable to produce a privacy law that was to accompany it.

http://www.nytimes.com/2002/08/06/international/asia/06JAPA.html

WHEN the news broke a week ago that a Princeton admissions officer had used the Social Security numbers of applicants to his school to view Yale University's Web site for admissions, privacy advocates were aghast not only at his act, but also at the Yale site's lack of security. In one online forum, Richard Wiggins, an author and information technology specialist at Michigan State University, noted that most businesses with online customer accounts have learned that Social Security numbers alone offer poor security, and issue personal identification numbers as well.

http://www.nytimes.com/2002/08/04/weekinreview/04SCHW.html

A 30-year-old professional photographer struck up a relationship with a deputy coroner who allowed him to take still pictures of corpses. Some months later, in January 2001, he took a roll of pictures to a developing shop, where a technician looked at them and called the police. The two men were indicted in February and convicted in October Mr. Condon of eight counts of abuse of a corpse and Mr. Tobias, who was suspended from his post, of two counts. The relatives of the deceased saw the photographs on the news and sued for abuse instead of privacy violation.

http://www.nytimes.com/2002/08/03/arts/design/03MORG.html

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