Privacy policies are a tour de force online these days, with a team of legalists writing them for big time companies that always manage to wiggle in some "exceptions" for future use, in case the company is bought or sold.
I hate spam. Don't you?
With that said, there's things you should know about how the CoffeeGeek website is run, and the underlying technology that runs it. CoffeeGeek is one of the more database-intensive sites on the Internet today, and it offers very complex tools and programming to allow sometimes unprecedented levels of interactivity. This document will underline exactly how this technology affects you, or more importantly, your information.
This document in some ways is a supplement to the CoffeeGeek User Terms and Conditions, and our Copyright Statement, both of which may be referred to in this document.
Members vs. Visitors
CoffeeGeek has two types of site users - those who are registered with the site ("Members"), and those who arenít. CoffeeGeek is optimized for use by its Members, but Visitors can also get a great experience from the site.
As a site Visitor, your visits to the website are logged in our active site logging tool (the Site Log). This tool provides us with pertinent information - not about you, but about the numbers you represent - it counts the pages you visit, it counts the times someone from your IP (it could be you, it could be someone else on your ISP) visit the site, it counts the amount of kilobytes you're responsible for downloading from the site. It also looks to see what link you clicked to arrive at this site. (known as 'referrer'). One thing it doesn't do is personally identify you for our records - you are more or less "anonymous".
Our Content Management Software (CMS) also tracks what reviews you've read, and what site comments you've read. Again, this is completely anonymous: think of a "take a number" sign that is changing. That's all your visit to our site does - ticks another click on that number counter.
What is known as a "session cookie" is placed on your computer for the duration of your visit. It's primary use is to optimize your time on the website - make pages load faster, optimize caching time, know which page was your previous page, so we can send you back there faster. It also sets your site status as a "visitor", which means there's certain pages you cannot access, including review creation pages, discussion board comment creation pages, and the like. The cookie is disabled once you leave the website and close down your browser. The next time you visit us, you're completely anonymous again, and we put a new session cookie on your computer.
Many sites use "cookies" to target specific ads your way, registered or not. We don't do that. I won't say we won't do that in the future, but if I can avoid that practice in any way, I will. While I don't find it particularly nasty, I do find it a bit creepy to know ads are following me around.
If you have signed up as a CoffeeGeek Member, we track the information listed above for Visitors, and additional information about you. We store information about you in our secure database. There are many reasons why, and (almost) none of them have to do for profit reasons:
- Database Data Collection: Members' information, including private and public email addresses, username, password, name, city, coffee expertise level, and other associated information entered into the CMS system by you, either voluntary or required information, is stored in our "site user" database. This database is highly secure.
- Database Usage: Our site user database is used within the CoffeeGeek website in many ways: to fill out your profile page should anyone click on your name in a review or a discussion board comment; to prefill in certain fields when you write a product review; to identify you when you post a comment; to track what reviews and articles you've voted on (so you cannot vote twice); to know when you have written a review for a product so you cannot write a different review (exceptions are products that have categories, such as "espresso cups"); and other ways. One way our database is never used is outside the CoffeeGeek website, or with anyone not directly working for CoffeeGeek: we do not share any of that information on an individual basis with anyone outside our little realm. Only 3 or 4 people have access to that full database, and only one of them knows how to actually read the darned thing.
- Private email addresses: You may have wondered why we ask for two email addresses. The public one is the one others see if they visit your Member Profile page, or when you write a review or post a comment. This is an optional email address and you can make it real (firstname.lastname@example.org), spamproofed, (email@example.com), or fake if you choose (name@noemailsorry). If you want other site visitors or members to communicate with you, we would appreciate a working public email address. Your private one, that one never gets displayed anywhere on the website at all. It's private. It is so private, it's very hard for us to see it. We require one for site activation (so that all accounts can be active), and for the sole purpose of having a solid way of contacting you should you win one of our many planned contest giveaways, or if we have to contact you regarding your participation on the website should questions arise (if, for instance, there is site participation that is contrary to our site's Terms and Conditions). We do not harvest, repackage, disseminate, reuse, or sell your private email address to anyone, and we work our hardest to keep it away from those who would abuse it. I hate spam, remember?
- Usernames vs. Real Names: CoffeeGeek asks you for a username and a real name. We ask for the username so you can have an easy-to-use name when logging in, and also for your discussion board participation - people prefer "nicknames" where they can get them, and we recognize that. We also ask for a real name (first and last) because we feel it lends credibility and a certain objectiveness to having your full name displayed on the product reviews you write. It was a conscientious decision to do this, and while some may have a problem with this, I hope most don't, and I hope you see the reasons behind it. I'd much rather read a review by Mark Prince than by "Joe543"
- Advertiser Provided Information: We provide advertisers with a wealth of information. The good news is, none of it identifies who you are, and none of it is personal and confidential information about any specific person. We tell advertisers, upon request, the following information: how many total members the site has; how many views we have for a) site, b) sections, c) reviews, and d) individual reviews; how many visitor sessions we have in a day, a week, a month, or a year; how many times their specific ads have been a) viewed, and b) clicked; and from time to time, we let them know other site traffic numbers and information on a general basis. This is why we have site logs, and have our CMS system track ad views and clicks on the self-managed advertising systems in place (more on this below).
At this writing (note, this could be subject to change), CoffeeGeek is running a self-managed advertising system that we hope is enough to sustain this website, pay the site authors a little money, and who knows, maybe WebMotif Net Services Inc., the company who footed the bill for this website, can recoup its investment.
Self managed advertising is great in many ways. It provides advertisers with a very low cost way of getting the message out about their products and offerings to you, a "targeted market" (we're all coffee and espresso lovers, or likers at least, aren't we? That's a target). It also lets advertisers control their own ads, so if they want to run a special one week, they can. If they want to run a special URL for a GeekLink!, they can.
One way self-managed advertising is great for you, the site visitor or member, is that there is no nefarious things going on behind the scenes. No "single pixel identifier gifs" from third party sites that haunt you as you travel around the internet. No cookies placed on your computer by advertisers. No pop up ads (ever, if I have anything to say about it). No advertisers collecting any information about you, be it anonymous IP addresses, or worse things, like your email address for their next spam outing. Self managed ads are no frills in many ways, but the high targeting we provide to our advertisers more than makes up for any shortfalls that more traditional (and uber-spying) advertisements can provide. In other words, surf our site with the confidence that you are not being added to some giant ad database that discovers you like Folgers over "the second leading brand".
With all this said, I hope that you will patronize our site sponsors, and recognize that it is their money, their hard work that creates that money, that makes this site a continuing possibility. Without you as a customer, they have no income. Without any income, they cannot advertise with us. And without advertisement revenue from them, we either have to opt for much more intrusive (and annoying) advertising, or shut the site down completely. I don't want that. I hope you don't either. Become patrons of the CoffeeGeek advertisers. They continue to make this site possible.
Contractors and Third Parties
WebMotif Net Services Inc., the sole owner of CoffeeGeek.com, utilizes no services from contractors to run this website, so we have no one to share your information with in this regard. And if we should happen to hire a contractor, they would be bound by our company's privacy and confidentiality agreements, agreements we make all sub contractors sign. These agreements enforce your privacy, as outlined in this document.
WebMotif Net Services Inc., is the hosting provider for the CoffeeGeek website. We "own" the server that the website is fed from, through the use of a co-location web server service. As such, no third party is currently involved in the management, hosting, or delivery of the CoffeeGeek website, and no third party has access to your confidential information. Should this change in the future, rest assured that any third party we contract out to must abide by and be bound to this website's stated privacy policies before we would enter into any kind of business arrangement with them.
Government Relations and Lawsuits
In some cases, the governments and legal entities (court of law, police subpoena, etc) can compel the disclosure of information about you, and of course CoffeeGeek will need to comply. However, irrespective of those situations, CoffeeGeek can unilaterally turn over information about you to the government if it believes such disclosure to be appropriate, in which case you authorize it to do so. You also consent to CoffeeGeek disclosing information about you to actual or potential parties to a lawsuit that CoffeeGeek is or may become involved in (a) if it is required to do so, (b) if it reasonably believes that such disclosures will potentially mitigate its liability, or (c) to enforce its rights.
Our lawyer made me put that clause in.
Limits on CoffeeGeek's Abilities
A site and service as complicated as CoffeeGeek.com is never perfect (boy, do I wish), and thus CoffeeGeek may inadvertently make uses or disclosures of your information in ways not contemplated by, or in direct contravention of, this Statement. For example, if the CMS software has a temporary problem, or is infected by an as of yet unknown virus or trojan, your personal information could be displayed on the site even though you've configured your preferences otherwise. No software is hackproof; if it exists on the Internet, the best we can do is make it "hack resistant".
In addition, although highly unlikely, it is possible for Internet transmissions containing your personal information to be intercepted by others. It is impossible for CoffeeGeek to ensure the privacy and security of all transmissions made to and from the site while in transit.
I ask you to please keep in mind that there is no such thing as perfect security on the Internet.
If you have any questions about this privacy statement, please email them to firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll do our best to answer them.
Lead CoffeeGeek, January, 2002. Revised July 2003.