Devil in the details: Read fine print before giving e-mail address


April 29, 2001



I make it a practice not to respond to spam -- e-mails sent en masse to large groups of users, a sort of direct marketing approach using e-mail.

But one of the spam e-mails I received recently looked promising. It was from a company offering DSL service in my area.

Now I knew beforehand that my home is too far from the phone company's central office to get DSL access, but I went to this company's Web site to test its online verification -- if it told me I qualified for DSL access, it was likely some sort of scam.

After filling in the required information, I was pleased to find the site was legitimate -- it apologetically let me know I didn't qualify for DSL access at the moment.

But before I left, I noticed some tiny print and a check box on the page under the heading "Privacy Statement."

The fine print in this privacy statement allowed the company to sign up people who visited the site and checked DSL availability for other e-mail offers -- and the default check box was to allow the company to pass user's information along to other companies.

After looking around the site, I couldn't find a single company name, address, phone number or other identification of who the company was and where they were located.

After reading the site's frequently asked question list, I realized I had been had. The site simply referred people to broadband Internet provider Covad -- a company that has been struggling in the ongoing Dot-com shakeup.

The site's purpose had little to do with DSL access and everything to do with getting suckers like me to give them my e-mail address.

The lesson here is to read carefully the fine print on any Web site before giving them your e-mail address.

If you wish to sign up for such offers, you may want to get a free Web-based e-mail account from Mail City, Hotmail, Yahoo or other web site. These will allow you to sign up for information without filling your main e-mail in-box with dozens of direct-mail offers or spam.

PHOTO INFO. Since my "regular" job is staff writer and photographer for a newspaper, any Web site that promotes writing or photography -- and how to do it better -- catches my eye.

I've never professed to be a great photographer. As with most print journalists who graduate from Western Kentucky University, I had a single class in photography and quickly set whatever I learned there aside, never thinking I would need to shoot news photos.

After I entered the working world -- the real world of newspapers -- I realized quickly that I needed those photo skills as part of earning my keep. Suddenly, those discussions of f-stops, depth of field and the Rule of Thirds were something I needed to put into practice.

It's my pursuit of photography skills that I uncovered a Web site devoted to just what I'm looking for -- This site won't turn you into a top photographer overnight, but regardless of your skill level, you'll come away with something new.

The categories for advice cover a very wide range of topics, from equipment, to subjects to technique. It also examines digital photography, offers guides to posing your subjects, suggests a good way to select a wedding photographer and more.

There's lots of good information here for both the novice and experienced photographer. If you're like me, you'll find plenty of ways to improve your own photography. And if you have tips to share, the site's sponsors welcome those, too.

Visit the site at

LAND RUSH. With new domain names set for release in the next week or two, domain registrars are expecting a sort of land rush for the prime names in the new .biz and .info top-level domains.

The new .info domain will be unrestricted -- any user anywhere can register a domain (within trademark regulations, of course).

The new .biz top-level domain will be reserved for trademark holders.

Afilias LLC will handle the new .info domain. The company already anticipates logging 1.5 million registrations by October.

NeuLevel LLC will handle registrations for the .biz domain.

Both companies will likely handle more registrations in their first few months than Network Solutions did for its first few years.

Additional top-level domains will be coming as well. The .pro and .name will likely be the next to begin accepting registrations, with the .name the first to go online simply because it will have fewer administrative rules.

Dozens of companies have been offering pre-registration for the new domain names for many months, hoping to tap into the new registration frenzy.

A complicated process that includes what is being called a ``sunrise'' period is already set to allow trademark holders time to register their trademarks or famous-name holders to thwart cybersquatters.

The length of this sunrise period varies by domain, but once completed, registrations from the general public will be accepted.

For the latest information on the new domains, visit ICANN's Web site at

Comments and questions about this column may be sent to, or visit on the World Wide Web.

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