In developing and maintaining the website for Midway Covenant, we go by an unofficial policy with respect to inclusion of personal information. We spell this out below both to make it clear and to invite discussion. This is a difficult issue to write about and we do not mean to come across as alarmist but in our role, we do have the responsibility to handle congregational information carefully.
Note, that unlike most website privacy policies, this mostly addresses the privacy of congregational information, not information from website visitors. We do not collect any information from website visitor except guestbook entries and normal aggregate hits logs. No visitor information is given or sold to others.
Feel free to contact us with comments, questions or concerns.
As use of the internet has grown becomes more mainstream, many concerns have arisen over access to personal information on the internet. Websites and most public posting forums are and are meant to be totally public. Any information posted there is released into a wide domain in which you have very little control over how the information is used. Search engines and automatic programs (known as robots or spiders) can read and collect information from an incredible number of web sites in a short time.
Concerns and issues have often been inflated into fears by print media to the point where many people are very concerned about using the internet. Even though most of the personal information available in the internet is also publicly available elsewhere, there are still common (and valid) concerns related to the ease of access and collection of information.
Some of the current concerns that are prevalent include:
- Unsolicited (unwanted) Email
Unsolicited and generally unwanted junk email (SPAM) is a huge annoyance to most people, to the point that many states have considered ways to make it illegal and email providers must implement extensive filtering to attempt to cope. This is generally commercial but can concern anything. Many people are careful about letting their email addresses become widespread to limit SPAM.
- Harassing Personal Contacts
This can include all sorts of undesired personal contacts, whether hate-mail, personal harassment, stalking or pedophilic advances toward children or youth. This is probably more often initiated in chat forums than regular websites. (We believe that this is much more rare than the media would portray, but it does concern many people and is still an important issue to consider)
- Identity Theft
Gathering of personal details of others for various kinds of fraud has become more prevalent in recent years.
We have several basic groups of people that might be listed or referred to; staff, adult members, youth and missionaries. Information of concern includes names, email addresses, phone numbers and photos. Home addresses are never posted. All e-mail addresses are automatically masked by reCAPTCHA Mailhide for site users who are not logged in.
- For staff, we list names, email addresses (usually office emails), and the office phone number. No home phones, etc. It is important that people be able to contact the staff and that access is all through the office.
- For adult members, we often list names when they are a contact for some group or activity that we are covering on the website. We do not list email addresses unless they have specifically given permission (they often ask us). We do not list phone numbers. It is assumed that other members have the church directory or can call the office for phone numbers.
- For youth and children, we generally do not list full names, but at most the first name and initial of the last name. We also do not list email addresses or phone numbers. Photo captions do not include full names and often do not include names at all. This is more to protect them from the more dangerous types of people that can and do use the net to contact and take advantage of young people. We are currently trying to decide how to apply this policy to the guestbook for the youth group.
- For missionaries, we are very careful what we list. Sometimes, missionaries are in countries where they would be in danger if it were known that they are ‘missionaries’ or even christian. In some countries, it is actually illegal to be there as a christian missionary and they could be imprisoned or deported. We don’t post info, even names, emails or country, without the explicit permission of that missionary or from our staff person in charge of missions.
Some specific areas of our online functionality have additional guidelines.
- Midway Covenant has a printed member directory with names, addresses, email, etc which is only available to members and friends of Midway Covenant. It is periodically distributed in print at the church. To request a copy or to add your information to this directory contact the office. This directory is not currently available online.
- Our email lists have additional concerns since sensitive information is often shared. The specific policies and procedures we follow are documented there.
- When using photos of MCCC events, members, etc online, either directly on the website or on our Facebook page, we use the following guidelines.
- Including photos in our site is a privilege for us, and we intend to respect and honor it.
- Photos are almost always of people in public spaces, at public events.
- We try not to post anything that would be embarrassing, objectionable or hurtful to anyone in the photo. If we know someone is shy about such things, we ask them before posting the photo.
- We will gladly provide credit for who took a particular photo if desired by the photographer, and we would certainly honor any copyright wishes or restrictions.
- We will gladly remove any photo immediately upon request.
In any case, if you see a photo that includes you or your child and would like it removed from the site, we would be glad to do so. Just notify the webmaster with the details.
Please be aware, that while we never post home addresses, there are a number of websites that provide white pages, or extensive listings of mailing addresses. There are also a number of people-finder type sites that help in locating people and their names, phone numbers, email addresses, etc. These sites have many sources of data and you can probably assume that you’re in there somewhere.
(Suggestions for additional resources would be very welcome, particularly good guides for parents on teaching their children responsible and safe interaction on the internet and pointers to useful, non-inflammatory articles on web privacy and safety issues.)