E-Mail and the Vulnerable Pagan
Article ID: 14737
Age Group: Adult
Days Up: 2,393
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Author: Once Schooled, Now Solo Mage
Posted: November 6th. 2011
Times Viewed: 3,842
Recently I was forced to take a strong measure against someone I thought was a responsible member of the pagan community: I asked this person to remove me from an e-mail list the person had created and was moderating. Even though my request was firm, it was polite. I explained to the person in question that I value my privacy and I did not like the fashion in which he/she administered his/her mail list. The response from said party was a childish tirade accusing me of paranoia and included the general sentiment, “And if I don’t remove you, what are you going to do about it?”
For a decade I worked in the IT industry as a programmer, networking administrator, and general technology guru. I have only had to admonish people for mishandling personal information twice and both times I received snarky replies, which attempted to lay the problem at my feet instead of where it truly belonged. To this end I feel it is now necessary to inform the well-intentioned but ignorant among the pagan community on how to best maintain newsletters, e-mail lists, and other personal information. If I come across as preachy, please bear in mind that I am attempting to save a great many people heartache, headache, and misfortune, as will become clear.
First of all, make no mistake: if you compile a list of names and e-mail addresses then you have created a valuable resource that can be bought and sold. The more names and valid e-mail addresses on your mailing list, the more valuable that list is to corporations. If you create such a list then you do have a moral, ethical, and legal obligation to honor and respect the privacy concerns of those on your list. Simply thinking, “We’re all pagans here” doesn’t cover the necessary bases; our kinship in religion does not give anyone the right to give out your private information to other parties.
Before you include someone’s name on a list, you must first obtain his or her permission to do so. Also, if you are going to share that information with other parties then you must inform your subscribers of this fact. You must also be willing to remove the names of subscribers from such lists upon their immediate demand without equivocation, hesitation, or explanation from them. This is the law in the United States and in many other nations. You can’t simply send them an e-mail demanding they provide you a good reason for removing their name from your list: you have to do it. Period. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. It is their right to demand you no longer send them e-mail and you are legally and ethically bound to honor that right.
Second, make no mistake: not everyone is going to use your personal information for good, altruistic, and noble purposes. Computer viruses, worms, and Trojan horses can capture data from e-mail client programs and then transmit that data back to hackers and other criminals who may then use such information in an attempt to hijack your e-mail account, your personal PC, your FaceBook account, your World of Warcraft account, etc.
Imagine, if you would, being awakened in the wee morning hours by the local SWAT team bursting through your front door because your personal information has been purloined, used against your will, and without your knowledge to distribute child pornography across the globe. Or, more commonly, imagine receiving a $25, 000.00 credit card bill for a card you don’t hold which was taken out in your name by a hacker half way around the world who obtained your personal information from a poorly kept e-mail list. The risks are real; these types of crimes do happen and innocent people are often victimized to the point of having their lives ruined by such criminal actions.
Just because someone is a third degree high priestess in a respectable tradition does not mean that said person is capable of maintaining a secure e-mail list or on-line discussion forum. Yes, the list creator or forum moderator may have good intentions in doing things the way they are doing them, but good intentions do not translate into expert knowledge of information security, privacy, and law.
Most e-mail clients offer a recipient option called “BCC.” This is short for “Blind Carbon Copy.” Placing your recipients’ e-mail addresses in this field assures that no one recipient can view the e-mail addresses of every other recipient on your mailing list. This simple act significantly reduces the threat of misappropriation and misuse of private information. As opposed to placing all recipients in the “TO” heading on the client (which allows all recipients to view, copy, and respond to all other recipients on your list) the BCC option should be used to make certain that you are honoring your readers’ right to privacy and to discourage misuse of personal information that has been entrusted to your care.
It is only natural to wish to share wisdom with other earnest seekers. The Internet is a great tool for making this mission possible. But with great power comes great responsibility. Irresponsible use of technology and information must be addressed within the Pagan community. We owe it to ourselves and to our fellow seekers to engender a safe and respectful on-line environment where information can be freely shared with minimal risk to those in our community. So before you decide to start sharing your ideas en masse on-line, read up on Internet security and ask yourself how you would feel if your personal e-mail information went out across the globe to parties unknown whose purposes for obtaining such information may be less than scrupulous. Take all necessary steps and precautions to safeguard your mailing list and your readers' anonymity.
The Internet is a marvelous tool, to be sure. It can also be abused and ruin lives.
Copyright: (c) 2011 Once Schooled Now Solo Mage Productions
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