[uf-discuss] A microformat for relationship availability and preference?

Siegfried Gipp siegfried at rorkvell.de
Thu Dec 21 03:35:47 PST 2006

Am Donnerstag, 21. Dezember 2006 11:10 schrieb Ciaran McNulty:

> In my day job, I keep seeing places where an hCard would be useful
> where organisations are publishing contact information, but far from
> wanting to make it easily parsable they seem to put all their efforts
> into trying to obfuscate it to avoid getting more spam!

Legal, but futile. Obfuscation is never a good concept to avoid bad things. 
Any hidden secret information is at some time revealed. You may make it 
harder, but you can't make it impossible for spammers to grab your email 

At least here in Germany it is enforced by law that anybody putting some page 
on the internet for public access has to include a socalled "impressum" which 
at least has to contain name, postal address, telephone number and email 
address. For commercial pages there are still more requirements. This is to 
clearly state who is responsible for whatever is publicly accessible on the 
internet. And it is enforced by law to not obfuscate these data beyond a 
point that any human user can use it. This excludes definitely publishing 
these information as f.ex. image, since there are human users who don't use 
graphical browsers. I do only know of two legal "obfuscation" methods: 1. 
entity-encoding and 2. reversing direction. You could clearly see that both 
are very weak obfuscation methods, but more is not allowed. So you simply 
_have_ to publish your email address, if you do have any public accessible 
web page.

So using obfuscation makes it only slightly harder for spammers to find your 
email address, but much harder for legal users. On the other side hCard has 
nearly no impact on email harvesting for spamming, but it makes it lot easier 
for legal users to get that address.

But sure you may decide freely about what additional information you are 
giving away about yourself. Personal relationships and publishing them are 
your personal decision, noone enforces you to anything here. The main problem 
here arises through "bad elements". Let's assume you have a link to a friend, 
clearly stating him to be a friend. This friend has another link to another 
friend, and so on. Then assume a friend of a friend of a friend ... of your 
friend is a terrorist. It would take seconds for FBI to knock on your door.

On the other side it would take only few more seconds if you have a simple 
link to your friend without XFN markup. So in the end it is your decision: 
Are you paranoid? Then you should stay away from the internet. Fear the 
internet like hell. In the internet there is no privacy. Or do you accept 
giving up large parts of your privacy for the sake of communication, 
interaction and maybe friends? Then you have to accept getting spam and other 
bad things, too. It's a bad world out there. 

It is not easy to decide here. But either go left or right. Trying some middle 
way is futile.

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