The low down on internet petitions - the site is collecting mailing addresses to sell!

The internet has come to a predictable point.  There is now a website where folks can make up their own petition and solicit signatures and so we are bombarded with petition requests these days.

It's understandable that our large community of "netizens" loves virtual petitions - they take seconds to sign and convey the feeling to the signer that she or he has done something meaningful.  A few seconds more and the signer can forward the announcements to all his/her friends.  Less than 5 minutes spent and the person has become an activist for his/her favorite cause.  And all this with no money spent!

I am not convinced that internet petitions do any more than giving the signer a "feel good" feeling.

If people really wanted to do something, appearing on the steps of the Supreme Court in numbers of over 100,000 might make a statement. But then again, that many people have marched every year in Washington in protest of Roe v Wade and have been virtually ignored.

Another question we should ask is, where is the petition site linked?  Do people really think that service is offered as a philanthrophic move on the part of the petition provider? Not even close!  While people are going to that site, their IP addresses and possibly other personal information (easily found on folks computers!) is being recorded in order that the site owners can sell this to advertisers and more SPAM lists!  Ironic, isn't it?  :)

What information does the petition provider request? Well, it turns out that to sign a petition you must furnish your mailing address, so the resulting SPAM will not only include your email but your snail mailbox as well.  The following is from an internet petition site privacy statement:

>>>>>We do not send unsolicited email.  The only way to receive email directly from us. is to sign a petition and submit your name, address, and email address.  ****By doing so you are signing an electronic petition and authorizing us to add your information to our database of petitioners****. <<<<<< 

This site only promises to not to send unsolicited email. It does not promise not to send unsolicited junk mail!

And after assuring us that our info won't be traded without our permission, the website adds:

>>>>>"From time to time we may, at its' sole discretion, share all other information regarding petitioners in aggregate or at ***an individual level*** with select partner organizations. "<<<<<

 

A "partner organization" is anyone who buys the service this site has to offer like advertises on the site or other. And 'at the individual level' means that they can take YOUR personal information like your name and address and sell it to anyone. Nowhere in the privacy statement do they state that they won't sell your mailing address!

In smaller print at the bottom of the place to sign the petition is a box which is checked which reads "Allow  partner organizations to contact me via email. "

Most people will not know enough to UNCHECK that box and that of course, is your express permission for the owners of the website to SELL your email address to anyone who wants it, INCLUDING porn advertisers!  (It seems a given that your mailing address WILL BE SOLD!)

I tried to sign a petition giving only a name and an email address. This is the message I got:

Remember, we must have your complete current address to
include your name in the petition drive and add your "spark" to help this
grassfire spread!

Please press the BACK button on your browser, correct the information and
re-submit. Thank You!
 
- The Address 1 field must be filled in 
- The City field must be filled in 
- The State field must be filled in 
- The Zip field must be filled in 

So you are definitely required to furnish your mailing address to sign a petition.

Unfortunately, internet petitions are not the only ones suspect.  I recently worked at the office of a pro life organization which asks people to sign petitions at every booth they run.  But these petitions are never delivered "to Washington".  Rather, the names on the petitions are entered into the computer to create a mailing list for dun letters.

Even IF paper petitions (and these are more influential than virtual ones) do hit their goal, I have never seen any evidence of a petition making any difference.  The government officials to whom these are sent, seem to ignore them for the most part.

I prefer to spend my time on more fruitful activities.  For instance, if everyone receiving this email would pray a decade of the Rosary for that cause instead of wasting their time on the petition site, that would do a WHOLE LOT MORE GOOD and it would also do a whole lot more to protect them from unwanted junk mail since their names would NOT be recorded by the petition site for sales lists.:) 

article by Sue Joan (Note - an example of an internet petition is below)

visit Healthread

----- Original Message -----

From: "Grassfire.net"  (note grassfire is no longer up but undoubtedly has been replace by other similar websites

To: <Louis>

Sent: Tuesday, May 07, 2002 11:19 PM

Subject: URGENT: STOP PORN-SPAM


> +  LINK MESSAGE FOR:
> +  LOUIS

> +
> +   REPLACE TEXT ABOVE THE LINE WITH YOUR
> +   OWN MESSAGE AND FORWARD TO YOUR
> +   FRIENDS! THANK YOU!
> + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +
>
> Dear Friend,
>
> Louis wants you to
> join the 1,698 who are taking a stand against the
> proliferation of Internet pornography
>
> Click here to sign this petition to protect your families
> and your children.
>
> (link to petition site)
>
> Grassfire.net has launched a NATIONAL CAMPAIGN designed to
> rally 100,000 citizens to stand united against Internet Porn
> in the next 90 days. After the U.S. Supreme Court recently
> struck down The Child Pornography Protection Act, it became
> clear to us that our government lacks the courage to fight
> Internet porn.
>
> Our NATIONAL CAMPAIGN demands the U.S. government
> moves decisively--enacting tough laws that truly protect our
> families from Internet smut.
>
> * * * OUR THREE GOALS.
>
> --GOAL #1--
> OUTLAW all unsolicited pornographic e-mail  (PORN-SPAM).
>
> --GOAL #2--
> BAN computer-generated child pornography.
>
> --GOAL #3--
> KEEP OUR TAX DOLLARS from supporting the porn industry
> by banning the use of public computers to view pornography,
> and requiring all public places (schools, libraries) to install
> pornography filtering software.
>
> --GOAL #4--
> Establish the kid-friendly ".kids" section on the Internet.
>
> We can stop the flood in Internet Pornography - but only if a vast
> army of concerned citizens rises up and says "enough is enough!"
>
> * * * ACTION ITEM #1 --SIGN THE PETITION
>
>        CLICK THE LINK BELOW TO TAKE A PERSONAL
>        STAND AGAINST INTERNET PORNOGRAPHY:
>
> (link to petition site)
>
> When we reach our goal of 100,000 signed petitions, we will
> deliver them to our lawmakers in Washington--demanding they
> listen to the voice of America by stopping Internet Porn.
>
> We are counting on you!
>
> * * * ACTION ITEM #1 --ALERT YOUR FRIENDS!
>
> A grassroots effort like this demands strong support. That's why
> after signing the petition, we need you to forward this message to
> at least 20-30 of your friends (perhaps church leaders, other
> parents, relatives, co-workers, neighbors)--urging them to stand
> with you in the fight to stop Internet Porn!
>
> Thank you so much for your help!
>
>
> Your friends at Grassfire.net
> Real Impact. Read Feedback. Real Results.
>
> P.S. We have prepared a special report that reveals how demented
> purveyors of Internet Porn can manipulate and exploit even the
> most innocent photo of your son or daughter. It's shocking. Click
> the link below.
>
> (link to petition site)
>
> P.P.S. Don't forget! After signing our petition against Internet
> Porn, and forwarding this message to your friends, you can watch
> your personal grassfire spread throughout the country by checking
> your personal reporting page! Click below for a preview of what it
> will look like:
>
> (link to petition site)
>
> + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +
> CLICK BELOW TO SIGN THE PETITION AGAINST
> INTERNET PORN.
>
>
> + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +
> CLICK BELOW TO READ HOW PORNOGRAPHERS ARE
> MANIPULATING AND EXPLOITING INNOCENT
> CHILDREN  (link to petition site)