Opting-Out (Even If You Never Opted In)

There's something wrong with a system that offers a pre-approved credit card to a rodent. Yet that's just what happened, last week. Visa, the credit card company with the smarmy, elitist commercials apparently felt that my pet chinchilla, Dusty was credit-worthy to the tune of $15,000. Being a chinchilla, he is the most luxurious of all rodents, and a platinum card does coordinate well with the color of his fur, but even so!

This wasn't the first time something like this had happened in my household. When I sign up for things on the web, and sometimes in the real world, I use Dusty's name—just so I can see who's selling their list to who. Apparently, this luxury-rodent is on some swanky lists. Tiffany and Neiman Marcus have both sent him Christmas catalogs. He loves to chew on them, so it's nice they sent them, but I don't think that was their intent.

Selling mailing lists is nothing new, but now your personal information can be worth between $10 and $400! Most web sites have privacy policies (at eFuse.com and the FuseLetter, our policy is simple—we respect your privacy and we won't share or sell your name to anyone, period). But you should check the privacy policy of a site before you volunteer info, even if you're just entering a contest. And even when you do, they can be so long and legal that it's hard for a non-lawyer to figure them out.

And it's getting worse. Now some web services are trying to follow you around the web, see everywhere you go, and sell your personal habits to strangers. I know, I'm starting to sound like Oliver Stone, but this is not a conspiracy theory (though companies are working together to do this). This is, unfortunately, true. You can read the facts at cnet's news.com

The latest problem involves cookies (something I normally can't get enough of :). These cookies are really small files your browser saves on your computer, and by themselves they're not a problem. Many sites (like eFuse.com) use them only to see where people go on the site—this helps site owners to make their sites more effective. These cookies don't know who you are they just record the path that someone took through a site.

I leave my cookies on (somehow that sounds like the first sentence of a bad short story, "I leave my cookies on..."), because I want sites I frequent to remember me, and there's no harm in that. You can turn cookies off in your browser (under Tools/Internet Options/Security in IE5, View/Internet Options/Security in IE4, or in Netscape use Edit/Preferences, Advanced). But if you do, some sites just won't work.

But now DoubleClick, one of the web's largest banner ad services, plans to build a database of consumers that includes each user's "name, address, retail, catalog and online purchase history, and demographic data," according to the company's privacy policy.

The Center for Democracy and Technology has a campaign that lets you opt-out this new scheme, and email the company behind it with your opinions on the subject. To do this, click here, opt yourself out, and, if you want, send a message to the industry that tracking like this is not acceptable. CDT also offers "Operation Opt-Out," that helps you get off all those mailing and telemarketing lists.

You can opt-out of credit card mailing and telemarketing lists by calling your credit card companies and saying, "I want to opt out." And you might also want to consider calling 888 5 OPT OUT (in the US and Canada) to tell the major credit bureaus Experian, Equifax and Trans Union not to sell your info (odd, isn't it, that you have to tell them NOT to). Opting out will reduce the amount your personal info that's floating around—and as a side bonus, will also reduce the amount of junk mail you receive.

PROTECT YOUR RIGHTS: Whenever you sign up for anything online, you need to take the time to read the agreement you're "signing." No, it's not easy to do, they're often long and involved and legal. But it's something you should really do, otherwise, you can lose your shirt (or worse, your own intellectual property).

In one truly shocking example, the user agreement on a site called click2send says: "You hereby grant to us a worldwide, perpetual, irrevocable, royalty-free, sublicenseable (through multiple tiers) right to exercise all intellectual property rights, with respect to any content you publish through your Account, that we need to perform our services."

HUH? They can't possibly need any intellectual property rights! But the fact is that anyone who agrees to this and posts a file on their service is legally giving away their rights. It's frightening that this kind of language is in what appears to be a standard agreement. I called and e-mailed them about this, but never received a reply.

It's your choice, do what you feel is best. Stay on these lists if you want. It's just useful to have this information, so you can make an informed decision.


Reality bytes: what do you expect? (tell us.)

What did you expect when you put up your site? And what did you really get? I know, we all thought that we'd put up our site and join the ranks of the billionaires. But get real. One of the biggest myths people have about building a site is that as soon as they post it, all 82 million people on the web visit it. If that was true, why would companies spend 2 million dollars for a 30 second TV ad on the Stupor Bowl?

The truth is that success on the web takes time. The question is: how long has it taken you? There are no right or wrong answers, I just want to hear what your experiences are, so I can tell other readers what to expect.

Finding Your Voice--Writing Like You

A writer's "voice" is how what you read "sounds" in your head as you read it. You can sound like an tax form, or you can sound like you. Unless you're the tax man, it's probably better to sound like you. But how? Chris Meeks helps you find your voice.

Guerilla Launch Tactics: Market For Next To Nothing

When you build a site, your challenge is more than just building the site—it's also building awareness, traffic, links from other sites, credibility, and relationships with visitors—all on a budget. Sal Arora explains how he built his site with a dream in his heart, a song on the radio, and a budget that wouldn't put a dent in his life!

Help Desk: What To Include On Your Intranet

When your printer freaks, or your network fails. Who ya gonna call? The help desk. J.D. Shipengrover helps your help desk do a better job on your intranet.

Properties Palette And The Object Tree

If you had a new assistant who was going to be working side-by-side with you for the duration of a project - wouldn't you like to be introduced?  Well, this basic Tewtorial does just that, it introduces you two of Fusions Page building Side Kicks, the Properties Palette and the Object Tree.  Both of which will be there to help you build a better Web site.

Free Fonts And Netobjects Fusion Templates

The FuseLetter, eFuse.com's helpful e-mail newsletter gives you free fonts (worth over $70) and truly amazing NetObjects Fusion templates you can't get anywhere else—just by having friend subscribe to the FuseLetter! It's easy, click here!


Get up to speed fast

Whether you've been using NetObjects Fusion for awhile, or are new to this powerful program, NetObjects Professional Services offers training courses designed to get you up and running quickly and easily. For more information on NetObjects training courses click here.

Stay informed...

With the FREE tips, tricks, and other information you need to make the most of your hardware, software, and time online with this lively and spam-proof e-newsletter from computer author and editor Fred Langa. FREE Sample Issue/Subscription

Real cool (maps)

Announcing ReDirector 5.0: The Ultimate ReDirection component for Fusion v4 & V5. ReDirect site visitors based on Browser, Screen resolution, Operating System or Color Depth. Includes detection for AOL, WebTV, Netscape 5 and more!  

Announcing RealityBytes 5.02: Create custom REAL Audio and Video controls quickly and easily! Link directly to local or remote .RA, .RAM and .RPM files. Supports a wide range of REAL objects and custom Console naming.

New Component Listing: With over 40 components, finding the Coolmaps component you're after can be hard! To make things easier we've re-organized the component listing around the three new groups - Basic, Advanced and Services. 

Birthday Wishes

Better late than never. I asked people to send in birthday greetings, then they got lost in the morass of too much e-mail. So here they are, better late than never. Once again, if you'd like to send a greeting to a loved one, send it to birthday@efuse.com, along with their name and birthday (year not necessary).

  • Rick Altman wishes happy birthday to his father, David Altman, rocket scientist (really)
  • Mike Farrel wishes a happy birthday to his grandmother, Nelly Buskey
  • Guy-A. Schockaert sends greetings to Mr. David Grossman at The Tel Aviv Center for Design Studies, and Mr. Ahn Sang-Soo at Hong-ik.university
  • Beth Anderson wishes Mel Webb of www.kmelmidimusic.com a happy birthday and says "This is the best music site on the web, and if you don't believe it go check it out." (OK, but don't expect me to put URL's in for other birthday recipients, I get this game :)

Feed The Hungry With Just A Click

Here's a great idea. All you have to do is visit this site and click on the "Donate Free Food" button. When you do, a sponsoring corporation will make a donation to feed a starving person for one day. You can do this once a day, and it costs nothing to you personally.

One Final Word

    Opt in. Opt out. It's your option.




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The SchoomozeLetter is ©1998-2005, Daniel Will-Harris, all rights reserved. If you'd like to use any article on the web or in print, please ask for permission. If you're an agent or publisher looking to publish these pieces, just drop me a note.