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Physicsforums.com Privacy Policy

by chroot
Tags: physicsforumscom, policy, privacy
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chroot
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Sep12-06, 08:01 PM
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Mission Statement

We, the staff of PF, are simply a group of volunteers who are passionate about science and science education, and wish to discuss it in a pleasant environment.

Physicsforums.com's intent is discussion and education, not profit. The main source of revenue is Google Ad click-throughs and individual contributors who voluntarily choose to provide financial support. Example uses of this revenue are the monthly fixed costs of server, bandwidth, security, and upgrades or repairs when necessary.

Summary

If you simply read the Physicsforums.com website, and do not post, no information about you is retained, except standard information like IP address and URLs accessed. This data is stored on the Physicsforums.com server, and is not accessible by anyone except the Administrators.

(Please note that the term "staff" refers to both Administrators, who have complete access to the server, database, and underlying operating system and hardware, and Mentors, who have access only to posts, profile information, and limited web server log information.)

If you choose to post, some additional information, outlined below, will be stored by the server, and will be available to the staff.

Identification of Authors

If you choose to post, you must create a member account. The only purposes of member accounts are to differentiate the posts of one member from those of another (i.e. so that our software will indicate that "Alice" posted one message, while "Bob" posted another) and to prevent anonymous spam.

The only piece of information that must necessarily be made public is the account name, which you choose. If you choose the name "Alice," for example, other members will see that identifier attached to your posts. You need not provide any information about yourself. Your account name is arbitrary and need not have any relationship to your actual identity (and, in fact, it should not).

No other information about you (for example, your email address or IP addresses) is made public.

The staff of Physicsforums.com encourages you to carefully consider any personal information which you voluntarily choose to provide, either in your member profile, or in your posts.

Cookies

Physicsforums.com will set a number of cookies in your browser when you are logged in. These cookies do not contain any information about you, but do contain information about your activity on the site. This is necessary so that the software can display which threads and posts you have and have not already read. This is, of course, merely a convenience: you can read the site without having logged in, and no such cookies will be set.

Passwords

All passwords should be strong. No passwords are stored on the server -- only hashes. No one, staff member or otherwise, can recover your password from the hash, and thus your password cannot be made public or used for any other purpose. No Physicsforums.com staff member will ever ask you for your password.

Logging

Every time you visit a web page, you send a lot of information to the web server. Most web servers routinely maintain access logs with a portion of this information, which can be used to get an overall picture of what pages are popular, what other sites link to this one, and what web browsers people are using. It is not the intention of Physicsforums.com to use this information to keep track of legitimate users.

These logs are used to produce the site statistics pages; the raw log data is not made public, and is normally discarded after about two weeks.

Here's a sample of what's logged for one page view:

64.164.82.142 - - [21/Oct/2003:02:03:19 +0000]
"GET /index.html" 200 18084
"http://www.physicsforums.com/index.html"
"Mozilla/5.0 (Macintosh; U; PPC Mac OS X; en-us) AppleWebKit/85.7 (KHTML, like Gecko) Safari/85.5"
Log data may be examined by developers in the course of solving technical problems and in tracking down badly-behaved web spiders that overwhelm the site. IP addresses of users, derived either from those logs or from records in the database are frequently used to correlate usernames and network addresses of edits in investigating abuse of the site, including the suspected use of malicious "sockpuppets" (duplicate accounts), vandalism, harassment of other users, or disruption of the site.

Policy on release of data derived from page logs

It is the policy of Physicsforums.com that personally identifiable data collected in the server logs may be released by the staff in the following situations:

1. In response to a valid subpoena or other compulsory request from law enforcement
2. With permission of the affected user
3. To the owner of Physicsforums.com, his legal counsel, or his designee, when necessary for investigation of abuse complaints.
4. Where the information pertains to page views generated by a spider or bot and its dissemination is necessary to illustrate or resolve technical issues.
5. Where the user has been vandalising the site or persistently behaving in a disruptive way, data may be released to assist in the targeting of IP blocks, or to assist in the formulation of a complaint to relevant Internet Service Providers
6. Where it is reasonably necessary to protect the rights, property or safety of the owner of Physicsforums.com, its users or the public.

Physicsforums.com policy does not permit public distribution of such information under any circumstances, except as described above.

Sharing information with third parties

Physicsforums.com will not sell or share private information, such as email addresses, with third parties, unless it is required by law to release the information.

Security of information

Physicsforums.com makes no guarantee against unauthorized access to any information you provide. This information may be available to anyone with access to the servers, including the Administrators.

Active data, such as the member database, is stored on the server itself. Backup copies of the member database may be stored either on the server, or on a personal computer owned by an Administrator, in a different geographic area from the server itself.

While we cannot guarantee that no unauthorized access will ever occur, we do everything possible to prevent it. We also encourage users to carefully consider all personal information they choose to reveal, and the potential consequences of that information being made public by some form of intrusion or unauthorized access. You need not provide any personally identifying information of any kind.

Email Addresses

An email address is required to create a new member account on Physicsforums.com. The motivation of this requirement is to prevent spammers from creating fake member accounts and automatically spamming the site. We will not contact you via this email address without your permission, or sell this information to a third party.

When you sign up for a new member account, a confirmation email will be sent to the email address you provide. The only purpose of this confirmation email is to ensure that you are an actual human being and not an automated spam robot. We do not require your email address to be valid at any time after you have responded to that single confirmation email. We encourage members who are concerned about their email privacy to use one of the many disposable email address services like spamgourmet.org or jetable.org to disguise their real email address. Concerned users are also welcomed to use one of the many anonymous remailers available on the Internet, or simply to create a "junk" email address which is intended for no other purpose.

The server software includes features to automatically notify you by email when various events occur: for example, if a thread you've participated in is posted to by another member. If you do not wish to receive such emails, those features may be disabled in your "control panel."

User data

Data on users, such as the times at which they posted and the number of posts they have made, are publicly available. In contrast, information about threads and posts read by users is not publicly available. This information is stored both in the cookies in your browser (if you are logged in), and on the server in the form of web server logs. Neither form of information is publicly available.

Removal of user accounts

Once created, user accounts will not be removed. It may be possible for a member name to be changed. Physicsforums.com does not guarantee that a name will be changed on request.
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