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JAMA NetSight
April 15, 1998

A Privacy Primer for the WebSpam, Bread Crumbs, and Cookies

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School (Dr Peters; e-mail:, and Medsite Communications Corp (Dr Sikorski; e-mail:, Boston, Mass.


Edited by William M. Silberg, Editorial Director, New Media Office, AMA Scientific Information and Multimedia Group.

JAMA. 1998;279(15):1219-1220. doi:10.1001/jama.279.15.1219

Those who desire to give up freedom in order to gain security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one.—Thomas Jefferson

A neonatologist has recently joined a large managed care group that has invested heavily in the use of computers and the Internet. She is familiar with the basics of the computer and its applications, but is new to the software that the group uses for billing. Interested in learning more, she visits the vendor's World Wide Web site. Here she finds a wealth of data, as well as an interactive discussion. She posts several messages that include her e-mail address. Within a month, her e-mail in-box begins to fill with unsolicited advertisements from vendors selling billing software, medical equipment, vacation planning, and other products and services that she neither needs nor wants. She is desperate for relief from this new flood of unwanted e-mail.

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