Nothing that you do on the internet is entirely private -- remember that next time you fire up your web browser or send e-mail. It's really nothing to get too worked up about, however, as there are methods to make yourself more anonymous and the information that people can find out about you is usually not that intrusive. It is a good idea to remember that, though, next time you browse to your favorite "hot hung males" porn site or look for the Anarchist Cookbook online.
Depending on the technology a web site uses, and how you access it, the people who run a particular site can tell what files you read and download while connected to their site, how long you spend there, how often you visit their site, what net address you are connecting from, what system you are running on your computer, and a few other items. That's partially because you are connected to their computer while you are browsing a site, and also because your net browser may allow the site to send and receive information to and from your computer. Each site you visit may collect this information about you, for a variety of reasons -- usually to track usage so that they know what parts of their site are popular. However, this data can be used for a more nefarious purpose.
In the hands of someone with a powerful enough computer (i.e. the government or big business), the data contained at each of these sites could be compiled to create a profile on each individual net user showing their likes and dislikes, political interests, and lifestyle habits that are nobody's business but their own. I'm not saying that this is currently being done, because in all probability it isn't, but the potential for abuse is there. Remember that next time you hook into the net. If you want more detail on the things that a site can find out about you, the Center for Democracy and Technology has put together a demonstration site. You can find it at http://www.13x.com/cgi-bin/cdt/snoop.pl .
If you wish to browse the web anonymously, so that nobody can find out where you go or what you look at, there is a free service called the Anonymizer that lets you surf the web without leaving information about yourself, you can find it at http://www.anonymizer.com . I would suggest making it the "home" page that loads when you fire up your web browser, so that you will always remember to surf anonymously if you desire to do so.
If you want to send anonymous e-mail, there is a couple of ways to do it. There are a number of anonymous e-mail sites on the web. One of them that is free to use is at http://www.angelfire.com/pages0/mailer/index.html . The other option is to send an e-mail to email@example.com where you will be assigned an anonymous e-mail address that you can use in your correspondence. Now, don't go getting the bright (read: stupid) idea to send death threats to public officials or ex-boyfriends, as most of these anonymous remailers will cooperate with the authorities in these cases. Have fun with it -- I'm sure I'll be getting mail from some of you trying out your new anonymity.
Moving on to other things, I'm sure many of you already know that Donny the Punk died of an AIDS related illness on July 18th. I didn't know Donny very well, but after I was accepted as Netpunk columnist here at MRR, I got e-mail from Donny offering to help me out in any way he could if I needed it. He gave me some useful sites, and offered some ideas on what he thought I should cover. I appreciated it more than I ever told him. It was amazing to see the amount of support for Donny from all corners when the message was first posted on alt.punk, the punk-list, and other places that he was in the hospital and wasn't expected to make it. There were also a number of memorials to him posted at these places once he died. You can find out more about his death, about memorials to him, as well as the organizations he worked for by pointing your web browser to http://www.spr.org . Also, an e-mail list about Donny has been started. To subscribe to it, send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org . I assume that the list will still be active by the time this sees print. RIP Stephen "Donny the Punk" Donaldson.
I get a lot of e-mail from people who want me to give them "more sites to check out". I appreciate people writing and telling me that they dig what I'm doing, but I'm sorry I can't be your personal net guide. In the spirit of DIY, I'm gonna tell YOU how to find stuff on your own. Of course, this may negate my job here at MRR, because if you can do it yourself, you don't need me telling you what's cool (at this point, most of you are thinking that you never really needed me in the first place, but I digress).
The easiest, but most time consuming, way to find stuff on the net is to simply browse from one site to the next, clicking on the links that interest you, until you find what you are looking for. This process can take just short of forever, though, and that's a pretty long time. To zero in on a specific subject, what you need to use is what's known as a search engine. These are web sites where you can put in key words and phrases and they'll come back with web sites related to those words. For instance, I did a search on the word "punk" on one of the search engines, and it came back with (no lie) 89,976 occurrences of the word. When I looked up "maximum rocknroll", I got 78 instances of the phrase, and when I chose "sex pistols" I got 4,000 (scary) instances.
The easiest way to find a search engine is (most likely) to click on the button on you web browser that says "Net Search" or something to that effect. It will take you to a list of the most popular browsers. If you can't find that button, some of my favorite search engines are Altavista (www.altavista.digital.com), Lycos (www.lycos.com), and Yahoo (www.yahoo.com). Try them out. They are a lot faster than e-mailing me and waiting for a response.
If it's zines that you're looking for, there is a fantastic index of electronic zines at http://www.meer.net/~johnl/e-zine-list/ . John Labovitz has put together a list of 1000 plus zines available on the internet, and he updates it monthly. This is very much like a Factsheet Five for the computer, and is well worth your time if you are into zines at all. You'll find everything from punk, to sex, to tech zines listed at this site.
Now that I've told you how to look stuff up yourself, I get to be lazy and NOT mention any music sites this time around. YOU do the surfing, find the stuff for yourself, and feel good about participating in the whole DIY process. Hey, you're a punk now (heh heh)!
I got e-mail from someone who was looking for an "indy" net provider -- that is, one not affiliated with any major corporations. I am looking for those of you out there who provide this service, as I'd like to start a list of punk rock owned net providers, or those doing internet business within the context of the punk rock ethic, whatever your definition. Please e-mail me and let me know what service YOU provide.
That's gonna do it this time around. Remember, you can e-mail me at email@example.com or write to me the old fashioned way at PO Box 752; Boise ID 83701. Also, these columns are available electronically at http://www.primenet.com/~hanford/maximum.html . See you on the net.
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