a note on email privacy

I hear all this talk about Facebook, social networking, and privacy, and it makes me chortle. Facebook might be a little bit evil, but we have been violating each other’s privacy like crazy, ever since Al Gore invented the Internets by funding the first tubes. And by we I don’t mean me: I learned better at about the same time I got my first disc from AOL, long long ago.

Spammers, scammers, virus spewers and hackers don’t care what you did over the weekend. They don’t want your recipe for rutabagas flambé. They just want your email address and your name. Facebook does not give that out. But we – not me – are happily sharing it with criminals by the ton, all day long. 

The truth is, I don’t mind getting a few funny or deep or generally trivial emails now and then. Internet banality kinda brightens my day. Or it makes me pause and ponder, whatever. I like to share it sometimes too. So I’m not saying stop, but there is a concern.

When you put more than one email address in the To field of your email and send it, everyone sees each other’s name and email address.
So if you send me a joke and also send it to your cousin Sally, I can see her name and address and she sees mine. But we’ve never met, and one or both of us might not appreciate that. We trusted you with our contact information.

If I forward that email to the guys in my Metaphysical Bungee Jump Club, they all get Sally’s name and email too. Did she tell you that it was OK for us to do that?

When that joke is then forwarded to more strangers, Sally’s email address gets spewed around the planet like crazy. See?

That’s why we receive emails with dozens or hundreds of names and email addresses in them. No wonder we get so much spam. We’re sending each others addresses to spammers, by the billions.

I think people should be able to decide who they want to have their email address.I think I should be able to give a friend my email address, or my phone number, shoe size, whatever, and expect and trust them not to broadcast it publically.

This is basic email etiquette, as much common knowledge as not openly sneezing on other citizens. You cover your mouth when you sneeze, and you hide multiple email addresses in the BCC field of the email form.

“We’ve all had this happen to us and it’s not O.K. Each day we receive messages or forwarded email from well intentioned onliners listing all those they are sending to in the To: field. And by doing so they are visibly displaying their contact’s email addresses to strangers!
If you do this and are thinking “no big deal” you are so wrong! If the only thing all the folks you are sending to have in common is you, you have breached your contact’s privacy by publicizing their emails to people they don’t know. Talk about showing a complete disregard for their privacy not to mention your lack of tech savvy!” [Link]

It’s easy to learn how to use BCC. Here’s a bunch of links on Google. Basically, you just put all the addresses in BCC instead of To.

One more thing.

If you get an email with a bunch of other people’s emails in it, clean it up before you forward it.
Just start the new email, highlight all the junk with your mouse, and press Delete, then send it.

If pressing Delete removes some or all of the good stuff you wanted to share, then the message is probably built in a table or a frame of some kind. That’s another topic, for another day in the new wild west.

viral workout

I just did something I almost never do, I posted a virus warning to the general public, on the thoroughfare, to the camp at large. I mean I did it on Facebook.

I usually consider spreading rumors of viruses and spyware and such to be very bad form, especially if you’re just forwarding about something that hasn’t happened to you. Hoax virus alerts are just as common and annoying as real viruses. And such alerts are usually outdated, futile, or generally crap. But here’s the poop:

Last night, I dozed off in my chair, watching Letterman. I woke up at 1:00am and tottered off toward the bed, stopping in the home office to shut off the computer. There on the screen was an email from Facebook, saying there was a wall post to me from a friend. What the hey, I opened the email.

"Kyle, awesome workout video.. check it out! :)"

Sure, a little chuckle before bed, thinks I. And I clicked. Big mistake, which I probably would not have made if I hadn’t been half asleep. I thought it was just some innocuous Facebook app, to open a little video.

The next thing I knew, there was a download running. I tried to stop it, but it was too late. The toolbars on my Firefox browser changed, and my default search engine was changed from Google to Bing.

I finally got to bed an hour later, at 2:00, having been forced to reinstall Firefox, research default search, uninstall the new flash video player that had forced its way in, then run 3 different antivirus and malware scans. Some of that was maybe overkill, maybe not. They did find spyware had been installed on my machine.

Side note: As part of this process, I fired Microsoft Security Essentials. It saw the virus coming, claimed to neutralize it, but changes were still made. I don’t know if the AV program should have blocked those changes, but it sure seems like it.

So I got Panda Cloud Antivirus, which was recently acclaimed very highly by PC magazine. It’s free, and the interesting thing about it is that it runs in The Cloud. The virus definitions do not have to be downloaded to your hard drive. Which is cool.

I sent an email to my friend, letting him know this pretended or seemed to come from him, in case his FB had been hijacked.

This morning, I got an email from a friend of mine, saying I appeared to have posted the same thing on her wall.

There is no evidence of any of this in my Facebook account. So in reality, I don’t have a clue what happened. But I know this for sure:

Facebook is a dangerous neighborhood of the Internet, kids. Don’t talk to strangers, don’t accept candy, and watch where you step. It’s probably best not to go down there late at night, is my point.

size matters

Imagine packing for a weekend trip. You get your suitcase down from the closet shelf and start with the living room furniture. In goes the sofa, the piano, then the kitchen appliances. You’re going to need a toilet and a tub, the TV set.

Imagine you sit down for lunch, order a turkey sandwich, and the waiter brings an 18 pound Butterball and 2 slices of bread.

That ain’t right, right? No no, your stuff needs someplace to stay, while little bits of it go out into the world. … A nice slice of turkey, a little lettuce, etc., and you’re good until dinner. Maybe a nice apple. I like a crisp Fuji apple in the afternoon.

I do not require the entire tree.

Now imagine you log-on to your e-mail and you’ve received an e-mail that’s 2000 times larger than the average message. It contains 48 high-resolution photos of puppies and kittens, or tigers breast-feeding piglets, satellite views of the Grand Canyon.

Maybe somebody thoughtfully served up an entire oven roasted TV commercial attached right to an e-mail.

If someone does that, you have to download it. And your computer has to open and display it. And then, if you are like me, you want to keep it. Forever, because it is so cute, moving, interesting, etc.

I remember years ago, an email was 3, maybe 7kb, and there was a limit of maybe 100kb, then a megabyte, 5mb … When the limit for most ISPs hit 20mb – 20,000kb– I thought Well they’ve opened the floodgates now. We’re gonna drown.

Just as we don’t need the whole turkey in a sandwich, we don’t need to send our entire vacation in an e-mail. There are Web sites such as YouTube, photobucket, flickr, snapfish, skydrive, and picasa (Google photos) that are just made for us.

Why? Because over the weekend I freed up a gigabyte of e-mail storage, held hostage by such loveable and precious internet banality.

I’m not talking about e-mails with a photo or a few. I deleted 150 e-mails which were using up enough space in my G-mail account for over 100,000 messages conveying the textural expression of human thought.

We’ll deal with the details later. I just want to say put the turkey on the table and we’ll carve it up and share.
From this night forth, let it be known that Metaphor supports and encourages the use of online storage for large-scale file sharing, and of e-mail as the vehicle for sharing what’s stored there.

If you don’t know how to make use of the free and easy sharing sites, such as those named above, well … stay tuned. If you do, well what were you thinking?

We could just post this and share it on Facebook, but let’s pack the equal of several large Web sites into an e-mail and send it to Kyle. LOL. That’ll keep him busy. 


  “If your Snark be a Snark, that is right:

Fetch it home by all means—you may serve it with greens,
And it’s handy for striking a light.”
               — Lewis Carroll

By the way, that talking baby commercial is not in this blog post. It’s resting at YouTube. It’s just linked here. And you can put the internet address of a photo or a video into your e-mail, and it will appear there without needing to upload it on your end or download it on the other end. … Like I said, stay tuned.