Summary: bythom.com doesn't collect information about you, though most of my partners and services do. All of my partners and services have privacy policies in place.
Last Update: 5/10/2010
I don't currently use bythom-generated cookies or tracking mechanisms on this site, though I do use external tracking mechanisms such as Google Analytics to better understand whether you're a new or repeat visitor to this site, and which articles you're reading. Thus, if you restrict yourself to just visiting pages on this site, you leave minimal information behind that could be used to track you.
If you purchase items through the Amazon or B&H links that I've provided (I collect a small extra percentage on such sales). These organizations do use tracking mechanisms, so you need to be aware of them. For example, when you click on an Amazon or B&H link on the bythom.com site, an "affiliate ID" is passed with you when you are taken to their URLs. If you make a purchase at either site during that session, the affiliate ID is captured with the transaction (so that these two sites can figure out where to send a commission check). Note that the affiliate tracking isn't permanent: if you log off your Internet connection and later log back on and go to Amazon or B&H directly, you aren't tracked as a bythom.com referral.
But even that simple act of passing on an affiliate ID has some interesting consequences. Amazon, in particular, has developed technologies that are quite useful, if applied reasonably. You'll note that there's now an "Amazon Recommends" list on my Other Recommended Books page. That list is produced by noting what books were purchased by all those who were referred to Amazon by my site. Likewise, as an Amazon affiliate, I can pull up lists of what was purchased bythom.com referrals. I also get reports of the total amount spend by bythom.com referrals (obviously, otherwise I wouldn't know if the commission checks were accurate), though I have no way of knowing who bought what (nor do I want to know). Thank you, I truly appreciate your helping me.
If you purchase an eBook from this site, the payment processor that is used is PayPal, regardless of whether you have a PayPal account or not (i.e., PayPal is my merchant credit card processor). Like Amazon, PayPal has its own privacy policies, which are available here. None of your credit card or account information is ever seen by my site or passed through it, let alone retained. All I receive is a notification when an order has been completed and the payment processed correctly and completely, and that notification only includes what you purchased, how much you paid, what your address is, and perhaps a note if you added one. I also get a Transaction ID# (though it is different than the transaction ID you get) so that I can look up the transaction in PayPal's database, if necessary. At no time do I or my site have any access to your private information during this transaction (you'll note that you're taken to a secure PayPal site during checkout). I realize that my choice of PayPal as my payment processor is slightly controversial, especially for some foreign visitors, as the foreign servers for PayPal do sometimes differ in what information they request and how they handle a transaction. The primary reason I originally selected PayPal had to do with privacy, though. Most other merchant processing services require my site to at least temporarily acquire and handle, and in some cases, temporarily store, credit card information. I prefer not to create yet another vulnerabilty point for private data access, especially since this site is hosted on a shared server.
I maintain a database of all orders made from the bythom.com site. That database contains name, address, email address, item ordered, date sent, tracking number (when used), any note that you added to your order, the PayPal transaction ID, and any notes I add to the database about subsequent correspondence about that order. This database is kept and backed up outside the server. I have not released any information nor do I have any current intention to release information from this database to other parties.
Finally, some of you send me direct email and comments on articles. For legal purposes, I archive some of such email received (and MSN archives most of it fairly permanently), thus I may maintain a record of what you've sent me. Again, however, it is not my practice to do anything with such information other than store it. I don't build email address lists and sell them to others (or even use them myself at the moment). If a response is warranted, I respond to your email and archive the original. If you've submitted a comment on an article, I may edit it and place it on the site if I think it adds useful information or commentry, and I may archive your original submission (usually I'll respond directly if the comment contained a question). In short, I'll respond when you ask for response, and I may archive what you've sent me so that my records regarding this site are complete.
I suppose to be complete I should say that these policies are subject to change. If and when I make such changes they would be published here for you to see. All I can say is that I'm an Internet user just like you are, and I prefer sites that have policies that impact privacy concerns as little as possible, and I've tried to model my own behavior accordingly. But business practices and needs, and legal regulations do change from time to time, and I may need to change my policies accordingly. I've always tried to conduct this business as an "open dialog" between myself and my customers, so if you have any concerns or criticisms, please feel free to address them to me so that I can consider them.
For more information about:
bythom.com | Nikon | Gadgets | Writing | imho | Travel | Privacy statement | © 2010 Thom Hogan. All rights reserved.