Safety online

I’m a great believer in privacy and although I’m happy to share personal information with people of my choice, it’s important there are rules and regulations in place to help prevent scamming.

Unfortunately, it seems in so many instances lately common sense has gone out the window. A simple statement on a web site, Facebook page, or business post such as ‘Are you happy for us to retain and share any information about you? Yes/No’ is fine.

If I sign on to a site I use regularly, having basic information pre-filled can be useful and a great time-saver. What bugs me is if I try to read a news item and it greys out until you have unwittingly become part of their marketing strategy. It would be so easy to press the ‘Accept All’ button but a word of advice- Don’t!

If you look into what you are actually agreeing to, you would be horrified. The first few options are designed to lull you into a false sense of security; you know the type ‘Necessary for the site to function’ which are auto-accepted so you couldn’t reject even if you wanted to. Browse down a little further and you will come to where you have a choice. This spins off into further options with ‘trusted partners’ and by the time you’ve gone through changing 500 options to No! you realise that’s only the first tranche, and there are another twenty or thirty to go through, each with a couple of hundred accept/reject individual options. No wonder people take the short cut and ‘accept’ just so they can read a thirty second news item.

Famous last words but my junk mail is fairly low-key, probably because I’m a cynic and if there isn’t a ‘Reject everything’ button I’ll move on and find another way to read the article. I also use different email addresses for personal friends and family, ‘author me’ and available to all, so you can guess which one accumulates the spam.

Do you remember letters? You know, those funny things in envelopes with a stamp which the postman delivered. Yes, I know there’s a virus but one day this week I received three letters at the same time, all with first class stamps.

The first was dated two weeks previously, relating to something which had already been sorted online, one was dated three or four days before but was confirmation of something due at the end of last month so the deadline had already passed. The other was a marketing pitch from a company I had never heard of, never had dealings with, wasn’t even in my area, and I had absolutely no interest in. The thing which annoyed me was it was correctly addressed with my full name, title etc. so someone, somewhere is selling off my information. I’m ex-directory and voting information is not on the public list.

I’ll let you into a secret. Unless it’s legally official I lie when completing forms. 😀 It might only be something as simple as inventing a house name, changing a middle initial or having a birthday a year or a day out, but it’s a great tracking system. You need to keep a Pinocchio database of who you’ve given what information, but ‘Little Sister’ is happy to have a sparring match with ‘Big Brother’ to stop an inanimate object taking over the world.

The marketing gurus say authors should have a newsletter where fans of my books receive special or advance privileges, such as prize competitions, bonuses or other things to make it worth their while signing up. I’ve been thinking about this for over two years, but have still to release my first one. I do have a handful of members but these are all people who ‘know’ me, even if we have never met, and trust that I will honour their privacy. Perhaps I’m too cynical to be an author if I’m loathe to trust others online but expect them to trust me.

What are your thoughts?

Do you sign up for things and to hell with the consequences, on the basis somewhere there is a list of all your details so why worry about it?

Sign up for a few, but only people you know and trust.

Never sign up for anything which requires divulgence of personal information, even as little as an email address, so perhaps miss out.

It’s an automated technical world but I’d love to hear your thoughts.

If you did want to join my mailing list you can sign up here:

Thanks for your company.

© Val Portelli July 2021

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