Web Site: We collect statistical data on all web site visitors, via 3rd party providers such as Google Analytics, including but not limited to your IP address, ISP, browser type, etc. We use this data primarily in two ways: 1. in aggregate to determine where we're being most effective in delivering content, and continually improve and 2. in individual cases to block intrusion from visitors who violate our terms of service, including SPAMers and trolls. In other words, providing sufficient security requires some collection of some data. On all web sites, it's always a balance between security and privacy where there's interaction between users and web site content or community.
3rd Parties: We will not sell your information to a third party. But if the men in black show up with guns and electrodes, we will probably hand over the account list. We're squeamish after all. So if you're plotting world domination, don't sign up. 🙂
General Security: We make an effort to keep information secure, by providing a fairly standard layer of protection (e.g. passwords, user levels, some filters, etc), but no system is impregnable. We're a small operation, and even Microsoft gets hacked. If you're really DB Cooper, we recommend you simply pick a different username. If your really real info is online anywhere, you should either be a less important ordinary person or accept the risk (like a celebrity) or take that stuff down, because there's really no such thing as completely inaccessible info on the web. You've probably got all kinds of wigs and hats to hide who you are online anyway - we're not asking, and we're not telling - unless we're asked. 🙂
E-mail Addresses: If you're worried about supplying your e-mail address - keep in mind that anything you do with e-mail anywhere, including sending an e-mail, is inherently insecure - as is posting in any social media or forum environment. The vast majority of e-mail, unless you're sending all your messages using encryption at both ends (sender/recipient) is sent "in the open" - meaning it's actually readable by anyone with sufficient technology to pull it out of the ether. This is why there are laws now (e.g. the GLB Act) about sending financial info that way. If you're doing 'mission critical' stuff with your e-mail, you've got bigger problems than simply providing the address to us. That said, we're going to need a means of communication to let you have an account, and be able to provide support - as is the payment processor. If you don't want to provide your "real" e-mail address, whatever that means, or at least a working one that can be used to communicate with you, a membership is probably not in your future. 🙂
Payment Info: We aren't the payment processor. Currently, it's Paypal, and we don't have access to your Paypal account or keep your card numbers, bank account numbers, etc - so their privacy policies apply to your payment handling. Using any type of payment system other than cash has some inherent privacy risks. Whenever you write a check, you've just entered the system. Whenever you use a credit card... etc. And no, we don't take cash, because we're not going to meet you in a dark alley or provide a drive-up teller or open envelopes handed to us by the postman. We'd still have to account for cash, electronically, anyway, to keep the bookkeeping legal and functional. It's an electronic membership, so it's electronic payment. If you're buying anything at all with checks or credit cards, you won't find us more or less secure in principle - you're already on the grid. So if that doesn't work for you, a membership is probably not in your future. 🙂
We value your privacy, but no one can guarantee it, even if they claim to. We will not intentionally violate basic privacy needs, but this is the web, and you're on it right now, sharing your IP address (individual internet connection info that identifies your internet service provider account) to every web site you visit, so we recommend you take control of your own information and exercise wisdom in where and how you share it. That's the best anyone can do.
Membership Addendum: We often get asked why we don't take cash, why we need an e-mail address for members, why we use a payment processor at all, and why we track any info at all.
- INFO: We operate a paid member system. All paid member systems use some means to identify who is and isn't a member, beyond simple username. That's e-mail address and ip address, usually. All web sites can track your ip address anyway and, even if the web site doesn't, the server it's on does, and your outgoing ISP does - just for starters. That means if you visit Google.com or use any kind of e-mail, you are identifiable right to your front door via the IP address your ISP broadcasts to all web sites you visit (and has to), and the server provider can hand its logs to anyone it deems to have a right to them. This would all be true even if we weren't here. You're broadcasting your ip address to everyone already, so it's the least intrusive identifier we can accept, and doesn't require us asking anything additional. We also have to be able to contact members, and respond to support concerns, and we can't fly out to meet them, so e-mail is the standard.
- PAYMENT: Even if we were to accept cash and have tellers stationed in every city in the world, accepting the local currency, we'd have to account for it legally in order to operate a business - so whether or not you use a checking account, we have to have one, and we have to track where the money comes from, and pay our taxes on it, etc. To keep membership from being 100x more expensive than it is, we have to use a payment processor rather than either a decentralized world-wide system of our own cash tellers, or a series of in-house back alley regional payment processing centers with lots of overhead, or even a barter/proxy currency which would just add a layer of unhelpful complexity in converting it to accountable money without enhancing privacy or else not be depositable or accountable in a businesslike manner.
- SUMMARY: There's no such thing, in short, as a paid member site where you're "off the grid" - and if you're e-mailing us to ask about it, you've already surrendered your data to half a dozen parties along the way, anyway. At some point, it's like combining diet coke and a big bag of chips - you're accepting e-mail and the web and the basic privacy concessions it involves, so this isn't more significant past that point than ordering something off of amazon.com or itunes - and we're not trying to be more secretive or private than that. Even if we could accept cash like Walmart, they have cameras capturing who buys what - we don't. Be that as it may, being on the internet at all is like going outside - you could get the flu, but the alternative is a bunker 6 miles underground and a lifetime supply of kibble.