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Friday, May 28, 2004

“Oh Avatar, Where Art Thou?”

Continuing with the cardinal rules of avoiding spam…
Number Four – “Treat your email address like a precious commodity, only to be shared with trusted friends.”


Because once it has been captured, it is all but impossible to liberate. You address will be sold and resold a thousand times over and the spam invasion of your inbox will begin.

This is all well and good as long as you are happy exchanging emails with friends, but what happens when you want to sign up for online services, download programs or sign up for newsletters? These kind of online interactions almost always require us to share our addresses with sources that have the potential of selling or leaking information to the Spamlords.

A couple of years ago, an initiative was started in an attempt to protect such information by having websites post “Privacy Policies”. The concept being that surfers would be able to find out how their information is going to be used before signing up for a service. There is no real authority that assures that companies adhere to these policies, although it is still important to read privacy policies before sharing information. It is also important to pay close attention to any checkboxes associated with submitting information. Submission forms will often contain confusing double-negative statements with regards to how your information will be shared: “Check ‘Yes’ if you do not wish for us to not share your information”. Huh?)

One method for working around sharing primary email addresses is to create secondary email accounts that are used specifically for situations where you are forced into sharing information. This process is more commonly known as “Creating an Avatar”.

The process is simple: sign up for a free web-based email account using phoney personal information (I personally like being a 101-year-old hermit from Madagascar.) Any time you visit a website that requires your email address, use the one for your Avatar account. Then, if a less than legitimate source shares your Avatar email address you have the option of creating a new address somewhere else, or just putting up with the spam, as you will only be using the account on a limited basis to retrieve information., and are all recommended webmail services, as they generally have effective spam tools that can be implemented if your account becomes compromised to the Spamlords.

posted by Kusari 9:17 PM

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