TNPC: What is privacy?…

by DanB

TNPC Newsletter
by Dan Butler

Helping you stay more productive – with or without your computer.

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This issue we look at privacy. Specifically what you can or
should expect when using computers at home and elsewhere. We
also talk about large monitors and how they affect your
productivity. And instructions on how to enter the free drawing
for this month.

First be sure to read last issue at the blog:

** Enter the Drawing

Enter the August Drawing. It is easy. REGISTER YOURSELF by
following these TWO simple steps:

1. Send an email to the address below by midnight
(CST), Sunday, 27 August 2006, to:


(Don’t just hit “Reply.” That email will not
enter you into the drawing…)

2. Be sure to include your real name and your
snail mail (postal) address.

You must get your entry in BEFORE the deadline or it will NOT go
into the random drawing.

NOTE: I do not read the emails that enter the drawing. Nobody
reads them. The simply collect in a secure email box until I
randomly select the winner. The only entry I read is the winner.
So don’t leave me a personal message in the email – I won’t see

** What is an “Invasion of Privacy”? by Dan Butler

Last week a gentleman unsubscribed because the audio on the
special page I set up for you began playing automatically. He
uses a public computer and claimed the audio “violated his
privacy”. News flash — if you are using a public computer you
should not have any expectation of privacy. Anyway that would be
my assumption.

I have thought about it and I am not sure how visiting a generic
message at a generic website on a public computer violates your
“privacy”. It can’t involve his personal information – none of
that was available. It can’t be that I was revealing his
“private” thoughts to the world – I wasn’t. I was revealing some
of my thoughts. To reveal his thoughts I would have to be a mind
reader! (I did make my living as a thought reader/sleight-of-
hand artist in the past but that isn’t coming into play here)

Here is a clue – don’t expect any thing on a public computer to
stay private. You don’t know who is watching or what software
may be running on that machine.

For all you know there is a keystroke logger capturing
everything you type. What are the chances of that? That would
depend on where the computer is located.

Far more likely is the chance of a proxy server logging every
Internet connection made from the public computers. There may be
two proxies – one at the location and another at the Internet
Service Provider (ISP). Then you have the log files of every web
site you visit. Plus any other information they may use based on
cookies or your login profile.

So even if you are careful and delete the cache and other items
on the machine you used a lot of information could still be
around. Not necessarily passwords, but certainly a record of the
sites you visited.

AOL is a big user of proxy servers. Last Sunday they released
the data from 20,000,000 web queries made by 650,000 of its
users. The searches covered a three month period. I will say
more about the AOL data in a moment. But consider this – how
many of the AOL users ever expected that data to see the light
of day again? Much less publicly released on the Internet. How
many even remember what they were searching on? Very few, I am

Another privacy consideration in public are people watching what
you do. I often take my children to the local library. We live
in a small town and the library isn’t that large. The public
computers are in two rows near the center. They are clearly
visible from almost any place in the building. I don’t snoop but
often glance to see what kinds of things people are looking at.

Reading email and searching for jobs is popular. So is playing
solitaire. Sometimes you see people looking at graphic intensive
sites. Some that shouldn’t stay visible in an area frequented by
children. Before you say the computers should be in an area away
from the children remember this is a small library. There is no
such area in the building.

I also see people involved with online chat sessions and I often
wonder if they feel they are in a private area or if their
conversation is somehow going to disappear when they are done.

I do want to make it clear that I don’t sit around snooping into
what people are doing on the net. I see the computer screens in
passing or while sitting with my children. I have talked to the
librarians and maintenance people about the most popular uses
for the computers.

Let’s talk about email. You should never assume any email you
send is private. It doesn’t matter if you are on a public
computer or your home computer. Unless you encrypt your email
you should have zero expectation of the contents of that email
remaining private. Think must think of email as a post card.
Don’t put anything in there you wouldn’t put on a post card for
anyone to see.

If you need to send sensitive email encrypt it. I recommend PGP
or GPG for the task because both:

1)are free for personal use,
2)have stood the test of time
3)run on multiple operating systems,
4)will be around for the foreseeable future.
5)can handle any file you need to encrypt email or not.

If you choose something else to encrypt your data make sure you
keep a running copy around so you can decrypt things later.

If you are new to PGP and email encryption check out this book
review from a few months ago over at the blog:

If you have a copy of my Tame Your Email you can use the
multimedia tutorials in the book.

These things don’t just apply to computer based activities. I am
constantly amazed at what some people discuss in public on their
cell phones. Again, I don’t want to listen, I can’t help but
overhear the conversations. I am not snooping. They are just
right there and often talk louder than normal. It has become so
bad that I carry a portable music player for trips to the
bookstore. Just to keep my thoughts on what I am looking for.

Later I will share a funny story of someone overhearing my phone
conversation. And a good example of an email gone terribly

Let’s talk about privacy and what you can and cannot expect.
Come share your thoughts at the TNPC Forum:

** Big Monitors Can Increase Productivity?

Jakob Nielson has an interesting observation on how large
monitors impact your productivity. Interesting reading. The
article is about what screen resolutions web surfers use. Look
for the “Big Monitors” heading in the middle of the article:

My personal experience is that larger screens, and more
specifically more screen real estate, do lead to higher
productivity. Years ago I was given a 21-inch monitor to work
with. I liked the size but the picture would never go square for
me. I had other people look and it didn’t bother them. It
bothered me – a lot. So I traded the 21″ with the fellow in the
next cube for his 17″ monitor. That gave me two 17″ monitors to
work with. We set the video up and put both 17″ monitors side by
side. It took me all of ten minutes to decide that is how I
wanted to work from now on.

I went on vacation and the other people in the area tried my
computer while I was out. Within the month everyone in the area
had two monitors on their desk. It made that much difference.

Why is it so productive. You could keep notes and research
visible while working on other tasks. Not switching back and
forth, loosing track of your thoughts the list goes on.

Today you really have two choices – one really large monitor or
two smaller monitors. It all depends on what you want to spend.
For home use keep an eye on people you know who upgrade or are
buying new computers. You may be able to pick up that extra
monitor for a great price.

Using multiple monitors is much easier now. New versions of
Windows and Linux have built in support. Even having one small
monitor and one large monitor can make a big difference in what
you are doing.

I put this article by itself on the blog. Why not share your
experiences in this area with the other readers:

~ Dan

© 2006 Dan Butler

Dan Butler is the Editor-in-Chief of and the
author of the amazing new book that shows you how to save your
identity, get your email read, and put more time into the things
you really enjoy…

Tired of fighting identity thieves? Tired of all that junk in
your email box? Want to have your messages seen by the people
that matter? “Tame Your Email” reveals the secrets to taking
control of your inbox while leaving the thieves and spammers
out of sight and out of mind.
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Copyright 2006 Dan Butler
All Rights Reserved.
ISSN: 1522-4422

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