PRIVACY POLICY
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My Privacy Policy
Everybody with a website accessible through the Internet needs to have a formal Privacy Policy.

Mine is pretty straightforward, I like to think:

Much as I would love to know who visits my site, your personal information is your own property and I have no right to it - no matter what other self-interested parties may proclaim.

So when you visit this site, I will not record a single piece of information about you.  If you choose to phone me or write to me and provide me with your details, that's fine - but I won't take anything from you in any other way or without your explicit permission.

PROFESSIONAL ETHICS

It's a classical Catch-22: in order to find out whether you've had your privacy invaded in the first place, you have to open yourself to further invasion of privacy.  It's wrong, but maybe one day all that will change.

Some years ago when I ran an international User Group, I was registered in the UK under that country's Data Protection Act (1984), and I made sure I not only followed the legal rules but also some moral codes of my own.

I never sold - or gave away - any item of my membership lists, and never divulged any aspect of my members' information to anyone else (not even other members).  The only pieces of information I ever gave out were the total number of members in my group and the names of the countries from which they hailed.

When I stopped running the group I destroyed everything - all membership lists, in all forms (electronic, paper) as a simple matter of principle.

For me it was (and still is) just a matter of professional ethics.

My Point of View
If you window shop - as many people do when walking down the High Street - you would be justifiably concerned if each time you glanced in a store window someone stepped forward and took your photograph, looked through your wallet and any other items you were carrying at the time (including any shopping you'd picked up from other stores) and then not only stored the information permanently on file but began selling it to other people, some of whom clearly had criminal intent.

My view is that websites on the Internet are in the same position as store windows: they're a way of presenting your wares (ideas, thoughts, skills, products, whatever) to passers-by.  If, as a window shopper, you go past the front window and step inside the store, unless you buy something you're still window shopping as far as I'm concerned.

When you fill in and submit an order form on a web page, then you've gone beyond being a window shopper and the site may arguably record certain information about you - but I feel very strongly that that should happen only with your explicit and fully informed permission.

I wish I could say that was the norm (to obtain permission first - and I don't mean a blanket permission, but a specific permission every time something is going to be taken from you), but it isn't - and that's despite the existence of groups like Truste.

I have a very strong view on so-called "opt-out" lists.  Nowhere in the rest of our culture can I think of anything that is as execrable as is this practice.

When was the last time you went to a restaurant and were served a "default" meal that you didn't ask for, just because you didn't say at the door "No default meal for me, please"?

Civilized countries have stopped the nasty practice of companies sending unsolicited products through the mail to consumers.  We also need to recognize the importance of stamping out the cancer that is the "opt-out" mailing list before it makes the Internet totally unusable.

One reason I'm hot under the collar about loss of privacy is because Yahoo! recently released lots of my personal contact information without my permission (by creating a set of "Preferences" and setting them all to a default such that I lost my privacy on the Web for more than one email account, for part of my snailmail address and even my home telephone number).

In my view this was abusive behavior and if anyone ever decides to pursue a class action against Yahoo! I'll join it so fast I'll violate the basic laws of Relativity.

Privacy is like virginity - lose it once and it's lost for ever.


Last updated: June 28, 2002

CONTACT
Peter Brooks
pcbrooks@earthlink.net
 

© PC Consulting 2002