Policies

Comments Policy | Privacy Policy | Legal Disclaimer

These are the rules and policies under which I operate this website. This page was last updated on 7 February 2008.

Comments Policy

In brief: My website, my rules. You’re welcome to get your own website and say whatever you want there.

Comments may be moderated — that is, if you haven’t posted a comment here before, the system may keep your comment “on hold” until I’ve looked at it. Since I do sleep occasionally, that could take hours. Be patient.

In general, I will publish a comment if it’s interesting, if it advances the discussion or is otherwise entertaining.

I may choose not to publish your comment:

  • If you’re making personal attacks.
  • If you’re way off the topic of the discussion.
  • If you seem incapable of assembling a coherent sentence.
  • If you don’t say much beyond “That’s nice,” or “Yeah I agree,” or “That’s crap.” By all means tell me what you think, but explain yourself.
  • If I’m in a bad mood.
  • For any goddam reason I like.

My website, my rules.

When you post a comment, you’ll be asked for your name (it doesn’t have to be real, but if you want to stay anonymous then to prevent confusion pick a name that’s not already being used by someone else), email address (not published) and, optionally, the address of your website.

If your comment is particularly controversial, I will check that your email address is “real” before publishing your comment. I will also email you if I choose not to publish your comment, to explain why.

I do read all comments, but if I don’t have anything to say in response I may not post a reply.

I reserve the right to edit your comments. This is usually limited to fixing obvious typing errors and grammatical mistakes — i.e. to make you look better — or to link to background information about what you’re saying. If your typing or grammar is particularly bad, I’ll leave it intact so everyone can see what a fool you are.

Please be aware that my friends and other commenters will often get away with saying things that strangers can’t. That’s human nature. Please also be aware that I and many of my commenters have a sense of irony.

Privacy Policy

Website privacy policies usually start with the words “We value your privacy,” and then go on to explain how they’ll give your personal information to pretty much anyone and everyone. This policy, however, starts with a clear statement of fact.

This is the Internet. You have no privacy. You gave up your privacy the day you connected your computer to the grid. What I’ll do with your private information is the least of your worries.

When you look at this website, my web server records the exact time of your visit, and keeps track of everything you look at and how long you stay here.

It records your Internet (IP) address, and from that I can work out which Internet Service Provider (ISP) you use, and roughly where you are — Sydney versus San Francisco versus Baghdad or whatever — unless you use advanced technical means to hide yourself. It also records the operating system of your computer, the type of web browser you use, and a few minor technical things.

It records what hyperlink you followed to reach this website. If you came here as the result of a search on Google or Yahoo! or Live Search or whatever, I’ll know what you were searching for.

All that stuff is standard for pretty much every website on the planet, so you shouldn’t be shocked.

I keep that detailed information for about a month, after which I only keep the summary reports (which don’t have your individual data). I keep the summary reports “forever”. The detailed information might live on in my system backups, but I’m unlikely to look for it.

If you post a comment, you have to leave your email address — which I sometimes check to make sure it’s real. The web server also puts a cookie on your computer so it knows when you come back and your second and subsequent comments are pre-approved.

If you vote in the Weekly Poll, another cookie is put on your computer to prevent you voting twice. If you’ve also left a comment, the system cross-matches that data, so I can see how you voted.

I keep that information “forever”.

I don’t look at this stuff very often, and I certainly I won’t give your information to anyone else without a police warrant or court order or somesuch. However, I do browse through it to figure out how I can create a more interesting website, to help fix a technical problem or sometimes, to be honest, just out of sheer curiosity.

For example, if you post a particularly interesting or particularly nasty comment, I might check out what search brought you here and what pages you’ve read. I might mention that to some people, but I won’t tell them your email address or anything that’d make it easy to identify you.

I take the usual technical steps to keep this information secure — but let’s face it, this isn’t MI5 and I don’t really spend a lot of time on network security. Neither do most businesses.

All this information is kept on the server in plain text (i.e. not encrypted), so in theory it could be read by any of the systems administrators at our data centre in San Francisco or our support team in India. I have no real way of knowing who they are or if they look at anything.

Sometimes I walk away from my desk without logging out — so my boyfriend or other visitors could sneak a peek. Unlikely, but it’s possible. I really should fix that…

Like many websites, I use Google Analytics for deeper analysis of what people look at — especially when doing things like The Heath Ledger Experiment. All of your click-track data and other stuff is sent to Google, and they insert their own code into my web pages, so only the Gods know what they do.

Then there’s everyone between you and me…

All of the data that travels between your computer and this website goes through your ISP’s systems, across the Internet through maybe a dozen or two dozen computers, through our data centre’s ISPs and then through the data centre. Anyone who has access to any of those computers — that is, all their technical staff or, if someone’s made a mistake, any random hacker who’s broken in — could be monitoring everything you and I do. There’s no way of knowing.

We can’t really do anything about that, apart from encrypting all of our communication — but it has to be decrypted on your computer anyway so you can read it. For all we know, Microsoft or Apple or Firefox or the makers of any of the software you use could be monitoring what you do. Again, we have no real way of knowing.

And speaking of MI5…

Let’s face facts. The spooks at the NSA and GCHQ and DSD and all the rest can monitor everything that happens on the Internet. Look up ECHELON. That’s their job.

That’s nothing new either. Throughout history, spy agencies have made secret deals with telephone and telegraph companies, postal services and every other major form of communication — all the way back to Queen Elizabeth I and her spymaster Sir Francis Walsingham, and probably well before that.

However, there’s more than a billion people using the Internet, and the spooks have finite budgets. So unless you really are a threat to global security (or a complete fuckwit), they’re probably not going to worry about you reading my website. Or if they do, they’ll just write “mostly harmless” on your file and move on.

On the other hand, these days telephone and computer taps can be ordered by federal and state police, and even local councils. In the UK, for instance, they can bug your phone to see if you’re dumping rubbish illegally!

Then there’s the criminals… but hey you get the picture. Basically, you can’t win. You have no privacy.

So, what can you do if you want to know what personal information I hold about you?

Well technically, since I’m a very small business, under Australian law I don’t have to bother with Privacy Act provisions. Nevertheless, if you ask politely, I’ll probably dig out what I know about you. If it looks like it’ll take a bit of effort, or I’m busy, I might charge you a small fee.

I may change this Privacy Policy over time. You can subscribe to this page’s RSS feed to keep abreast of changes — but then that’s logged too. Catch 22.

Any questions?

Legal Disclaimer

I’m not God, and I’m not your mother.

I’m only human, and so are the majority of my commenters. There may well be things on this website which are wrong, misleading, stupid, offensive to some, incomprehensible or politically or logically unsound.

Take responsibility for your own actions, and deal with it. Don’t blame me for any problems in your life.

15 comments

  1. Quatrefoil’s avatar

    I’m not sure you’re right — you may in fact be God. That privacy policy is brilliant, and explained a number of things that I didn’t know, although I have always worked on the theory that there is no such thing as privacy. I do, however, look for a statement that site owners won’t be passing my email address on, and a statement that I retain copyright to my own writing if it’s a site I write meaningful things on as opposed to comments (although that’s inherent in Australian law). I am, however, slightly chagrined that you know how often I get bored and check the blogs I read during the day…

  2. Eric TF Bat’s avatar

    (Hmmmph… your JavaScript preview let through the <UL> and <LI> tags but the final comment handler stripped them out. Poot.)

    [Stilgherrian says: That's OK, I put them back in.]

  3. Bernard’s avatar

    Ok, you’re not my mother but can u please put a spook-link onto your site so that we consumers of Stilgherrian Goodness (TM) can self select
    a. Serious Threat to Global Security
    b. Total Fuckwit
    c. Move on Max – MostlyHarmless

    Our spook levies at work in a more productive manner.

    The UK’s privacy laws – or should i say “privacy (removal) laws” are abominable, however the UK always has been pretty heavy handed in such regards. Admittedly it was easier in the old days when the Chaps network controlled things quite nicely.

    I tend to disagree with your opening gambit “In Cyberspace anyone can see your undies”. It is only that way because “we” have let “them” “do this” to “us”. Will expand on that later. For now – I have a meeting to lob some logic grenades into.

    btw – damn good explo of things. Specially for 2am.

  4. Bernard’s avatar

    ETFB – “is like asking the security guard at the Louvre for permission to look at the pictures on the wall”. Almost akin to asking them in English… funny blank stares and / or gallic shrugs.

  5. Stilgherrian’s avatar

    Thank you to everyone who enjoyed the Privacy Policy. I had fun writing it. Link away!

    @Quatrefoil: Good point about copyright. I shall amend the copyright notice soonishly to reflect that I only hold copyright in what I write and photograph.

    @Eric TF Bat: Ah but I will allow your comment to pass because I only may choose not to publish it. And your rant is worthwhile! “Mangle sputum glossop!” to you too!

    Yeah the “Can I link” thing gets me. A link it like saying “There are these words or pictures on page 78 of a book.” Statement of fact. Mind you, some companies try to assert that you have to link only to their home page. Such companies are… odd.

    @Bernard: Thank you. The words have been forming in my mind for ages. For some reason last night a wave of stress was lifted and the Muse struck. I’ve actually been up most of the night writing. More soon.

    Maybe it’s the eclipse…

  6. Eric TF Bat’s avatar

    I may choose not to publish your comment:

    1. If you’re making personal attacks.
    2. If you’re way off the topic of the discussion.
    3. If you seem incapable of assembling a coherent sentence.
    4. If you don’t say much beyond “That’s nice,” or “Yeah I agree,” or “That’s crap.” By all means tell me what you think, but explain yourself.
    5. If I’m in a bad mood.
    6. For any goddam reason I like.

    Aha! A challenge!

    Stilgherrian, you ugly bastard! (#1) Dame Edna is a legend! (#2) Mangle sputum glossop! (#3) You’re completely right! (#4) Laurel Papworth has better tits than you! (#5, surely!)

    But how to trigger #6? Nope, I’m stumped.

    Incidentally: I love your privacy policy. I’m going to link to it from my site, and there’s nothing you can do to stop me! Bwahahahahahahaha!!![1]

    [1] I hate the ignorant futtocks who ask “can I link to that from my Geocites/Facebook/AOL page?” Of course you can link to it, you steaming great git! What do you think the internet is for? Asking for permission to link to someone’s web page is like asking the security guard at the Louvre for permission to look at the pictures on the wall. Stupid!

  7. Sweet Sister Morphine’s avatar

    I… feel really paranoid and self-conscious now. It’s even fnord worse than when that chap at Australia Post told me that he could verify my identity with just my debit card number.

    Interesting though. I had not idea that websites collected that amount of detailed information.

    Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go construct a hat out of tinfoil, build some kind of fortified bunker and start stockpiling food and ammunition…

  8. Stilgherrian’s avatar

    There have been far too many fnord disturbing words this week. Something is about to go very strange indeed.

  9. Alex Willemyns’s avatar

    Damn you, I hate thinking about the things you outlined under Privacy such as ECHELON.

    The stuff not even as hardcore as ECHELON is bad enough. Twenty to thirty years time is going to see so many politicians scrambling to cover their teenage MySpace tracks.

    Most likely, and this is totally unrelated to your Privacy Policy, it’s going to lead to a whole bunch of new bland Howard/Rudd type politicians (the only people who used MySpace without leaving any dirty tracks behind — it’ll be sort of Darwinian).

    You can probably lay claim to the most informative (and interesting) Privacy Policy on the net now too.

  10. Stilgherrian’s avatar

    @Alex Willemyns: Choosing not to think is always the easiest option, m’boy.

    Mind you, there’s a major point still missing from the Privacy Policy: all the “little brothers” of the corporate data mining world which are perhaps more disturbing than the potential “big brothers” of the global intelligence community.

    The latter are generally filled with people who are indoctrinated with the ideals of Doing Good, and while there’s the potential for extreme corruption there are also internal controls — though whether they’re sufficient or effective is another issue. The corporate data miners exist solely to make profit.

    I’ll write more about this very, very soon…

  11. samotage’s avatar

    Can you please explain this to Stephen? It may take plain language, and perhaps even a few goes – you could try three?

    @samotage
    #nocleanfeed

  12. Horse Races Australia’s avatar

    Wow Stilgherrian,

    Just wanted to let you know I’ve read a lot of ‘policy’ pages in my time… but the detail you go into on this one…. well it takes the cake. :)

    Just came across your site today via twitter… a great read… I’ll be back.

    Take care

    Phil

  13. Horse Racing Results’s avatar

    lol, I love this part Stilgherrian -

    “This is the Internet. You have no privacy. You gave up your privacy the day you connected your computer to the grid. What I’ll do with your private information is the least of your worries.”

    And all the stuff you posted about what data a webserver records. It’s surprising how many do not actually know this stuff. There is no such thing as ‘privacy’ on the internet. Thousands of people fall victim to this classic myth day after day.

    Great policy, all the best.

    Dave.

  14. Stilgherrian’s avatar

    @Horse Races Australia and @Horse Racing Results: Look, it’s lovely to get the compliments, and you do seem to have actually read the policy. But your real aim is just to link to your horse racing websites to squeeze out the ol’ Googlejuice. So, to prevent that, I’ve edited out the URLs. ;)

Comments are now closed.