Posts Tagged ‘Digital Privacy

When you are asked at church to provide contact information, such as a phone number or email address, it is generally expected that the contact information is only to be used for church use, not for political or commercial purposes.

This gets a little fuzzy when “church use” mingles a little bit with political or commercial purposes. Suppose you found a great sale on bibles, and wanted to share the info with other members of the congregation? Or perhaps a church leader wants to remind people to fulfill their civic duties by voting in an upcoming election?

It also gets confusing when other members of the congregation are also personal friends. While it may not be appropriate to approach church members with a commercial or political cause, approaching a personal friend may be acceptable.

To help clarify the confusion with this issue, may I suggest the following guidelines:

Points that may indicate acceptable use:

  • The individual also provided directly to you their contact information.
  • The topic of your conversation is directly related to a recently or frequently taught principle at church.
  • The topic of conversation is directly related to a church sponsored or church encouraged activity.
  • You frequently associate with the individual away from church encouraged activities.
  • The individual has contacted you previously for a commercial or political cause.

Warning signs for unacceptable use:

  • You or someone you directly know would materially benefit from the conversation.
  • A political candidate or political cause (which hasn’t been officially endorsed by the church) would benefit.
  • You have to use a church published directory in order to find the contact information.
  • You are using an email list or a set of email addresses which has been created by a church official or created for church use.
  • You are specifically mentioning the name of a business, the name of a political candidate, or a ballot measure title.

Of course, these guidelines are to clarify the confusion that may occur with “church use” verses “commercial use.”  It leave the topic of “church use” verses “personal use” undiscussed.  Can you use the church email list to invite everyone to your backyard BBQ?  I’ll leave that question unanswered.

To further clarify any remaining confusion, let me give my opinion about a couple of scenarios:

A member of your church congregation wants to have a tupperware party.  If the person intends on selling tupperware at the party, or to create interest in tupperware in order to sell product later, the person should be very careful not to use any contact information that was provided to the church and not to the individual directly. is having a sale on copies of the Bible. If a person just wants to let you know about the sale, it may be ok for them to send the link to the product page.  If the link includes a referral code such that the person can earn a commission, then it is not appropriate for them to send the link to a church provided contact list.

A member of the congregation is running for political office.  Since sharing accomplishments of members of the congregation isn’t irregular, acknowledgment of the fact that the member is running wouldn’t be inappropriate, unless people were being encouraged to vote for the person.  Stating the candidate’s platform or political views is inappropriate because it is encouraging votes.

There is a ballot issue on a topic addressed frequently at church.  It would be ok to let people know about the ballot issue, especially if it was explained how the ballot issue is connected to topics addressed at church.  It would be ok to encourage people to vote on the issue. Unless church officials have endorsed a particular stance on the issue, it would not be appropriate to tell people to vote a particular way on the issue.

It is important to be very careful when using church provided contact information.  Not only do we need to keep church, political and commercial subjects separate for legal and ethical reasons, but it is important to respect people’s privacy by not misusing contact information they provided for church use only.

Before the 2008 Olympics, I was at looking for information. I noticed how they had a form where you could enter your email address to receive Olympic coverage updates or something like that. I entered the email address: nbcolympics@jacob…com.

I have an email system where anything@jacob…com will land in my inbox. That makes it really easy to give a custom email address to different people/sites so I can filter my email based on the TO address.

I didn’t receive a single email about the Olympics in all of that time. But I have received emails from about some sort of Fantasy sports thing.

What does this mean? The only person I gave that particular email address to was NBCOlympics. If I’m getting other email to that address, the only conclusion is that NBCOlympics sold off or gave away my email address to others.

Not that I’ll be bothered by the spam, because I’ve now switched all email to that address to arrive in a special spam email account.

Wells Fargo, stop calling me

Posted in Generalon May 27, 2008

Dear Wells Fargo,

I really want a bank that just keeps my money safe and accessible. I don’t want you calling me many times selling some soft of subscription package to your many programs. I signed up for the national do-not-call list, which means that I really don’t like being bothered my various offers made by calling me. Just because I bank with you, doesn’t mean that I really want to be bothered by you.

Tonight you called me, hiding the caller identification of the source call. Thats just plain sneaky, and something I wouldn’t expect from a bank that I would like to trust.

If you call me, I will refuse any offer you present. Please stop calling me. I told that last caller not to call me again. If I receive any more phone calls from you that do not directly concern my financial accounts, I will strongly consider moving my funds to a different institution.

July 17, 2008 update:
BOB, in comment 10180, was very nice to describe to me Wells Fargo’s privacy policy. According to his suggestion, I went to their website and found my privacy settings already set to the following:

My Wells Fargo Privacy Settings

My Wells Fargo Privacy Settings


So my question now is the following? Were my privacy settings always prohibiting contact? Or were they changed by the Wells Fargo representative who called me last with whom I requested that they no longer call me?

The good news is that I haven’t been called in quite a while. Also, now I know that any calls I may receive in the future are in contradiction to my privacy settings and against Wells Fargo’s privacy policy.

Does anyone know where I can find similar privacy settings on the Discover Card website?

Update July 24 Today I received another phone call which introduced itself as being associated with Wells Fargo. When I asked the guy if he was aware that I had specified in my Wells Fargo privacy settings that I wish not to be contacted, he asked me what privacy settings I was talking about, and then he suggested that my system was incorrect.

On February 15th, BYU will launch a new look and feel for its various websites including the BYU homepage, Route Y, and department and college sites.  The administrators for BYU’s webpages have nicknamed this new look and feel Collage.  The Collage theme sports new colors and new methods for user interaction, but will increase a hacker’s ability to steal student’s identities.

An essential component to Collage is a login form on the top of every page.  Students can type their username and password into the form to be shown a custom set of Internet links.  Webpage administrators expect that students will frequently enter their password to gain access to their preferred links.  Students will then be trained to frequently type their password on top of any page with the Collage theme.

Within a matter of minutes, anyone with a technical background can set up a page using the Collage theme.  They can make it look like a genuine and legitimate BYU site.  In particular, hacker’s can create a fake site that looks like a BYU site, but it really just a technique to trick student users.  Many student users could be tricked into giving their username and password to a fake site created by a hacker.  The hacker could then gain access to the student’s personal information, email, and financial accounts.  Once the hacker has access to the student’s information,

Hiding IP address with Firefox

Posted in Technicalon Sep 30, 2006

Quick answer to the title: you can’t.

One of the search queries on my other blog was: firefox how to keep ip address off internet. I thought I would help this person out and explain things to them.

When you load up a web page, Firefox (or any Internet browser) sends a request to a web server that in English might say, “Please send the contents of this page back to me at address” The web server receives this request and sends the contents of the page back to Firefox at the provided address where it is displayed to the user. This makes it really difficult to download web pages while not revealing your IP (Internet Protocol) address to others.

There are ways by using a proxy so that your address doesn’t go all the way to the end web server. In this way, your browser sends the request to the proxy, and the proxy creates its own request to the web server. The web server sends the page contents to the proxy, and the proxy forwards the contents back to your Firefox browser as a response to your original request.

There is this proxy service out there called the Anonymizer which does this sort of thing. I believe they charge money for their service, but you might be able to find a similar service out there. I do not endorse or recommend any products, I’m only stating here that they exist.

Firefox however, is a browser that is designed to be more secure and keep your information more private. You can download it by clicking here.

Untraceable messaging

Posted in Technicalon Sep 27, 2006

Today on Slashdot there was a story about a messaging service called VaporStream that allows for completely recordless digital communication. They say “messages cannot be forwarded, edited, printed or saved.” See, I don’t buy into stories like that. Obviously, the message must be displayed at some point. What is keeping me from taking a digital camera and taking a picture of the screen. Then I have a record of what was sent. Maybe legally it is recordless, but I think it is important to remember there is always ways to take a camera or a tape recorder to things that weren’t meant to be recorded.

Is Google protecting privacy?

Posted in Technicalon Jan 21, 2006

“In court papers filed on Wednesday in U.S. District Court in San Jose, the Justice Department stated that Google had refused to comply with a subpoena issued last year for one million random Web addresses from Google’s databases as well as records of all searches entered on Google during any one-week period.” (source)
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