providing for the personal growth and fulfillment of those whose lives are affected by crossdressing
By Diane Sofia Frank
This page is a brief discussion of privacy issues and references about those
issues. It should not be considered or authoritative. I look forward to
revising this article based on the comments of readers.
Personal Computers: The Library, Home and at Work
If you use a personal computer from a public place such as a library you can
never be sure that monitoring software is in place to track patron activities.
Or that someone isn't physically looking over your shoulder. Even on a computer
in your home, your privacy isn't what you might think it is. The Windows
Web-browsers all leave files in the computer which show what web sites you've
visited. If your children use your computer, or if you allow non-family members
to use your computer, your use of the computer can be studied without your
consent, by people you may not want to know about it. There is software for
cleaning up your system as well as some features built into Windows and into web
browsers. However, if you are doing something like maintaining the AO
website, you will have far greater difficulties with keeping material isolated
from prying eyes.
Never use a computer at work for a personal purpose, such as visiting the
Alpha Omega website. Your employer has a legal right to monitor all use of
your computer, check for files stored on it and the obligation to ensure that
your use of an office computer complies with company policy and state and
federal laws. It can be hard not to slip up. I had some correspondence with an
experienced user who inadvertently used the wrong return email address, a
Email has limitations on privacy which need to be
understood. First there is the matter of what you put into your email yourself.
For example, we recently had one inexperienced person send an email with their
real name embedded in the return address. You can't assume that everyone out
there in the electronic universe cares as much about your security and privacy
as Alpha Omega does. A simple protection, although not proof against a serious
investigation is the use of an alias. While your email is normally handled by
your internet service provider (ISP), you can set up dummy accounts at number of
sources which provide some protection against casual snooping. If you use
Microsoft's Outlook Express, and manage multiple email addresses and personas,
you need to be careful which return address is selected when sending new mail.
Note- If the government really wants to track your activities
it can use subpoena power and force such services to disclose record which will
lead to your doorstep.
Who hasn't heard about computer viruses? Be aware that some of these critters
not only trash your computer, or propagate themselves via email, some can also
function as little spies in your system, exposing your activities to the virus's
master. Keeping yourself free of viruses is more and more important these days.
Posting Files and Creating Your Own Website
Many software products embed ownership information as part of a document you
create. Microsoft products are especially gifted at this. Suppose you setting up
a web site devoted to your transgendered existence. Keeping in mind that there
are a lot of ways to trace this back to you, why leave obvious signposts?
Microsoft FrontPage, the software used to create and maintain the AO website
keeps subdirectories called "_vti_cnf". Front Page is promiscuous in
creating these "_vti_cnf" subdirectories. These directories contain,
in part authorship and file creation records. Whatever name you used to set up
your Windows Operating System or registered MS Front Page in will show up there.
When you upload the website you created from your computer to the web host, a
na� user will transfer the "_vti_cnf" subdirectories along with
everything else. You don�t need to. Files in the "_vti_cnf"
subdirectories are not needed for your website to operate properly. Because so
many "_vti_cnf" subdirectories are created, you�ll need to be
careful to remove them all.
Suppose you write up your opinion or experience using MS Word. MS Word
incorporates authorship information directly in the file. Send that MS Word
Document in and your name may well go with it unless you take steps. Here�s
how to check and manage that information in MS Word. Open the MS Word Document
you�d like to publish. Click on File, properties. A pop-up window will appear,
click on the summaries tab. Delete any information you don�t want published.
Resave the file. Click on Tools, options. Another pop-up window will show up.
Click on the User Information tab. Again delete unwanted identification.
You also need to be cautious about Adobe PDF files. Adobe
includes whatever name you log into windows under.
are all I know of. Naturally this doesn�t cover non MS products such as
Corel-Word Perfect. I�ll be pleased to add comments from readers on how to
keep things clean in other software programs.
Pictures: Anything you put on the internet can move. Even
if you think you can't be recognized, you picture could end up where it
could cause harm. Unless you are totally out, pictures are rather
risky. Even closed clubs are risky because you have no control over
another member taking the picture and using it elsewhere.
Older Fashioned Media
The Telephone: There are many sites by which searches for telephone numbers can be done.
Giving out your phone number in web-site, an email or in a chat-room can allow a
search to be done for you just by the number. Unless you've taken steps to have
an unlisted number your name and address will be available for public
inspection. Even if unlisted, your phone number can be used by legal authorities
to get that same information.
Post-Office Boxes: Some people assume that a post-office box provides them with some anonymity.
The key word is some. Anyone can request a post-office branch to provide the
legal registration under which a US post-office box was rented. A PO Box
provides privacy only to the extent that no-one bothers to check. Services such
as xxxx also offer PO boxes, which are somewhat more private, as they are not
required to give out the owner�s name to anyone who asks.
Do's and Don�ts
Do: Use a dummy account
Do: Be very careful about giving out phone numbers.
Don't: Use the internet to make threatening remarks about government
officials or installations. In our post 9/11 environment both surveillance
software and hardware (CARNIVORE for example) is being used to scan all net
activities. And remember that the anonymity that pretends to protect you also
protects government agents and informants. Your conversation partners or the
owner's of a chat site may also find your conduct of concern and voluntarily
turn in records leading to your doorstep. Very few people right now would want
to be an inadvertent part of some subsequent terrorist act, and they will tend
to act in a precautionary manner.
Don�t: Visit websites or send email about non-work related activities from work.
References: For further discussions on Privacy and Security on the Internet
you might want to conduct your own search on subject. Here are some references we at Alpha Omega found that may be of further interest.