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recently received the following letter, and since we're all
concerned with privacy issues, I thought I'd pass it along. It
sounds like a good technique for dealing with a pesky problem.
>>> Mon, __ Jan 2002 11:11 UTC - From:
some reason, several of my friends recently got the idea into
their heads to send identical e-mails to many people at the
same time. Multiple e-mailing among consenting adults seems
to be a newly-discovered human need, ranking right up there
with food, clothing and shelter, and I see nothing wrong with
saving keystrokes and using one's mail program to do the
the method by which these mass-mailings were accomplished
scared the heck out of me. To avoid unnecessary anguish in the
future, I composed this letter to send to all my friends.
you've been around the 'net for a while, you've heard about a nasty
thing called "SPAM" - supposedly named because the
process is reminiscent of throwing luncheon meat into the
spinning blades of a fan. It starts when some nefarious character
decides to send out unsolicited, usually commercial, mail to all and
sundry. S/he gets thousands of e-mail addresses, and fires off nuisance
advertisements to all the unlucky targets. Sometimes things get out of
hand, and those addresses get passed along to other advertisers,
who... well, you get the picture. It's like a pyramid scheme or a chain
letter - unwelcome, obnoxious, and sometimes frightening.
It's not uncommon to hear stories of people who are forced to change
their e-mail addresses because of the amount of unsolicited mail they
receive. Believe me, it happens. Think of how you'd feel if you had
986 messages to download the next time you logged on,
with 3 of them (which three?) containing important
information from close friends.
it's probably a good idea to protect your e-mail address, and
disclose it only to people you know and/or trust. Additionally, I
think we'd all like to feel that our friends respect our privacy
rights, and safeguard the address which we've entrusted to
them - hence this letter.
you commit a serious netiquette (and ethical) breach by entering
multiple addresses in your mail program's "To:" field, everyone
who receives the message can see all the e-mail addresses.
Suppose ONE of those people has a small widget business
on the side, and s/he decides that these addresses would be lovely
places to send information on the new, improved widget. After all,
who doesn't love a nice widget?! Soon, the addresses get compiled
into a larger list, and TWO of those recipients have widget-lubricating
businesses on the side. Later, there are FOUR widget-overhaul folks,
and the next thing you know, we're all up to our butts in smooth-running,
not to belabor the point (maybe it's too late already): if you feel you
must send e-mails to multiple recipients, put their addresses in the
"Bcc:" field, and put your own address in the "To:" field. With this
method, nobody receives any other addresses, and no-one's
privacy is compromised. If you want to make sure all YOUR friends
know about this technique, simply click the Forward button in your
mail program, delete any references to my name or e-mail address
that show up in the editing window, put their addresses in the "Bcc:"
field (each separated by a comma), type your own address in the
"To:" field, and make sure to turn off any automatic signature file you
may have. With any luck, this message will be spread all over the 'net
by next Tuesday. Just don't send it back to me. Please.
My friends have had no trouble with this technique of secure multiple
e-mailing, but I'm aware that some mail programs don't have a "Bcc:"
field (you can change programs, or Internet Service Providers, if
necessary). Even if a Bcc exists (it's often an option, under "View"),
there's a slight chance it might not operate as expected - some
Bcc's are not "Blind", and act more like regular "carbon copies". A
small number of cases depend upon how the sender's mail program
interacts with the recipient's... Before mailing this out to your entire
list, test the method with two friends who know each other, and ask
if either can see the other's address.
technique is not meant to be used with chain letters, or for commercial
purposes. It's intended for senders who: personally know their
recipients, need to send out multiple e-mails, and wish to avoid the
unethical breach of privacy committed by a disclosure of e-mail
SPAM: Unsolicited commercial eMails
are inexcusable - the sender risks a retaliatory letter-bombing,
or being reported to their ISP postmaster (and losing their Internet
account). If you receive a steamy slab o' SPAM, use the technique at
the top of this page to copy the entire message,
including the full header (it may be under View, Document Source -
they often try to "spoof", or hide, the host server's address there) and
everything to abuse@_.com, admin@_.com, fraud@_.com, help@_.com,
policy@_.com, postmaster@_.com, remove@_.com, root@_.com, security@_.com,
spam@_.com, and support@_.com, where "_.com" is the sender's domain name.
Request that the offender's account be revoked, for eMail harassment -
I've helped put at least 30 SPAMmers out of business with the method
above (consider this: if a small percentage of us responded to SPAM
in a pro-active manner, it would cease to be a problem). Sometimes
selection of anonymous mailers, including
browser-driven remailer in Amsterdam, can be of use.
in an eMail queue have a much more personal, immediate impact
than letters in a P.O. box or even at a snail mail home address,
but junk eMailers commit robbery, by stealing the recipient's
download time (and money, for connect charges). If you wish to
engage in business on the 'net, put up a website for your venture,
and promote it with the search engines, or buy advertisements
from established services. As many folks have discovered, if
you attempt to directly approach people electronically with your
commercial message, you may stir up an ugly reaction. You will
have asked for (and deserve) all the abuse which comes your
VIRUS HOAXES: A
computer virus cannot be spread by simply opening your eMail -
it must be executed (viruses are sometimes found as attachments to
eMail messages, but again, you must take the extra step of executing the
virus file in order to do any harm). The next time you receive a warning
about a bogus eMail virus, use the technique at the top
of this page to copy a debunking
message into your reply, and stop the hoax.
Tricks is an absorbing case study about tracking down an
incident of address forgery (or "spoofing"). Further info:
C. Baird · Top of Page ·