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Are You An E-benezer Scrouge? 28 November 2001 Edition
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T'is the season to be jolly -- right?

Yes, pretty soon our days and nights will be filled with such activities as shopping, wrapping and partying.

When I was young (and dinosaurs roamed the earth), we'd eagerly line up all the lovely glitter-covered christmas cards that came in the post and then go off to school and brag about how many we'd received.

However, since the advent of the Internet, and email, things have changed a little.

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For one thing, the price of decent cards has gone through the roof with many carrying a price tag of well over $5 -- a lot of money for a bit of bent cardboard and a few cheesy lines of verse. Then there's the cost and inconvenience of having to buy stamps and find a post-box.

Unfortunately, an increasing number of people, especially those who have just discovered the Net, have found that they can save all the hassle, cost and inconvenience by simply sending an e-card.

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Personally, I wish e-cards could be banned!

For a start, they involve someone handing over your email address to a site whose credentials and trustworthiness may be completely unknown. There's a good chance that such a site makes its money by on-selling those addresses on a CDROM to spammers.

Here is a good example of how e-card senders can inadvertently sign up their friends(?) to receive spam. Sending a card from this site produces this form which, as you'll notice, defaults to also sending you spam about credit card offers. What's more, you can spam up to 10 addresses at once.

The rather Terms & Conditions don't protect you either -- because unless you uncheck the "spam me" box, you're requesting the spam.

Then there's the issue of viruses and security.

Many of these cute little e-cards arrive in the form of an attachment to an email. All sorts of formats are used to implement these cards -- including Java, Macromedia's Flash, Javascripted HTML, and even executable program-files.

With all the email-borne viruses lurking around at the moment (especially the new BTrans.B currently sweeping the globe), how is the average Net user to know whether they're about to open an expression of goodwill or a virtual anthrax letter?

Of course all these large emails floating around the Net also start to place added load on mailservers and this can delay legitimate, important traffic.

Yes, there are many legitimate e-card operators who have excellent privacy policies and rather than delivering their content as an email attachment, they direct you to a website to view the message.

However, sending an e-card simply says "I'm too cheap and don't think enough of you to invest in a real card and a stamp."

Is that the message you *really* want to send?

Please, don't be an E-benezer Scrouge this year!

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