Note. This disclosure statement is consistent with "good practices," although it is neither recommended nor required by the American Counseling Association Code of Ethics
and Standards of Practice. With respect to Web sites and other services supported by the Internet infrastructure, we focus on the "user anonymity" instead of the more confusing concept of "privacy." The concept of privacy is more ambiguous during this intermediate phase of the "Information Era."
This anonymity-focused disclosure statement addresses three areas: 1) cookies; 2) cached files; and 3) Web server date.
Cookies. The Web hosting provider for the PSPC uses session Cookies to manage visitors' navigation through the various directories and files, and to record unique visitors. These session Cookies
do not contain personally identifiable information, and they are deleted when your personal computer is turned off.
The use of session Cookies is contrasted with many Web sites that use relatively permanent cookies (bases on their expiration dates). Visitors to a range of Web sites can view the expiration dates of cookies by going to:
Internet Explorer> Tools (main menu)> Internet Options...> Temporary Internet Files, Settings [button]> Temporary Internet Files folder, View files...[button] (with the Details view selected).
It is common to find expiration dates set for the 2010s, 2020s, 2037 (specifically, and for inexplicable reasons), and as far away as years in the 2070s!
Cached Files. The settings within your Web browser (e.g., Internet Explorer, Netscape, or Opera) and multimedia clients (e.g., Windows Media Player, RealPlayer, etc.) determine the number of duration of graphics and multimedia files that are cached. Therefore, the site visitor, and not The Portal for Student and Professional Counselors (PSPC), controls the number and duration of downloaded graphics files that are cached within the Temporary Internet Files folder.
Anonymity--Consideration for Student and Professional
Counselors. Most browser configurations (by default or through user customization) retain graphics and non-streamed multimedia files within the Temporary Internet Files folder. Generally, these files have either no expiration date or an expiration date that is several years or decades into the future. However, the retention of these files within your Temporary Internet files folder is based on recurring visits to associated Web sites during the period set for the History folder (i.e., Internet Explorer>Tools [main menu]>Internet Options...>History [section]).
What anonymity-related issues are associated with research or curiosity-based visits to "generally unacceptable" Web
sites (e.g., extremist, obscene, illegal activities, etc.)?
An option for users
with broadband access is to "zero-out" the caching of files within the History
folder. (By default, Internet Explorer within Windows XP sets the
History at 20 days.) Narrowband subscribers benefit the most from the browser's ability to have a local cache of files from which to display files
requested from a Web server (or a proxy server used by "private" systems such as AOL).
However, all research-oriented users benefit from creating a History
period (e.g., several days) because Internet Explorer uses this
function to "highlight" visited Web sites.
Caveat. Most organizations log and review the Web sites visited by each computer within their network. These logs typically include the computer's service tag, therefore, the employee assigned to that computer is easy to identify. (Obviously, the identification of a discrete user for computers with multiple users could be complicated,
unless each user is required to log into the computer.)
Web Server Data. A log (a.k.a., raw log) is generated with each visit to a
file within the Portal for Student and Professional Counselors (PSPC). Almost all Web servers generate a log of its visitors; however, different items can be retrieved and analyzed. Consistent with typical Web hosting servers, the PSPC server account retrieves and record the following: IP (Internet Protocol) address; date and time [of visit]; specific URL for the
file you access; your Web browser and version; your operating system and version; referrer or site from which you linked to us, unless it is blocked; the identity of the search engine (if one is used); and the actual search engine query (word or phrase)--a minority of search engines block your query string.
These data, whether analyzed discretely or in aggregate, do not reveal personally identifiable information--one exception is noted, however. All static and temporary IP (Internet Protocol) addresses can be traced to the sponsoring ISP (Internet Service Provider).
(Note: Most universities, colleges,
institutes, and large school districts are ISPs.) A subsequent analytical step can, in some instances,
reveal the computer identification assigned by the ISP. This means that a unique visitor, or more specifically, a unique computer, can be identified (based on the date and time of access to this or any Web site). The PSPC
does not use IP addresses to trace visitors' computers.
Logged data, depending on the configuration of a Web server account, are used to generate reports related to: traffic--hourly, daily, monthly; referrers; search engines; visitor time viewing specific files; viewer's monitor size and resolution; visitors' countries; etc. These reports can be used to help Web site developers update and better manage their Web sites. The PSPC uses aggregate data to revise and update the various files within this Web site--we have neither the ability nor interest in obtaining personally identifiable information associated with visitors to files within this portal.
October 5, 2003
Raymond Perry Jr, PhD, Manager
Portal for Student and Professional Counselors (PSPC)