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E-mail policy

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If you haven't already done so, make yourself a new e-mail address to use on websites. You can do this on hotmail, yahoo or gmail.

Try to get in the habit of weening people you've got to know off this address and onto your private address.

Your private address could be your work e-mail address, but this isn't ideal.

Similarly some employers don't like you accessing hotmail etc whilst at work because potentially this threatens the security of their network.

Having an e-mail address you just use for web sites is a really clever move. It means that that you've always got the 'failsafe' option of simply abandoning it and creating nice new fresh one nobody knows about.

It is unlikely you will ever have to do this, but keeping your ventures on the internet separate from people you have got to know, is a really good discipline. It would be really good if you could do the same with the letterbox in your front door, but you can't.

Just one word of caution here: if you are signing up to credit/debit card debits with reputable companies, don't use temporary e-mail addresses as your only contact. the reason for this, is that if your card payment fails, they will notify you through your possibly out of date e-mail, and the next thing you know is your broadband/TV/electricity/gas has been cut off.

E-mail addresses on websites

If you click to post on this site, the above advice is given in a briefer form.

Rogue computers have used the openness of the internet to 'hoover' up e-mail addresses from billions of internet sites. The owners of these computers then sell these addresses at about 0.0001p per address.

However this is not a significant source of viruses, and anyway there are various strategies that I have devised in code on these web pages to make it very difficult indeed for a passing computer to pull your e-mail address off the site. Effectively your e-mail address remains 'locked' in code until someone needs to use it to e-mail you.

If you are getting viruses in your InBox, then by far the most likely reason is that someone has that virus on their computer and your e-mail address on their computer. The virus then sends copies of itself to you, with a spoof return e-mail address. So if you appear to have received a virus from the Bank of England, it probably hasn't come from them.

To make sure your home computer isn't doing the same thing, keep your anti-viral software up to date, or if you haven't got any, install some today.

I am presently writing code to allow two people to communicate without divulging their e-mail addresses to each other. This is because I intend to introduce a private 'dating' channel to the site quite soon. I think it will then be possible to roll out the anonymous system as an option for the whole site.