Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Who is this website for?

A: ParanoidPaul is for anybody who cares about their online privacy and how their personal information is used by the websites they visit. Please see the About page for more details.

Q: How is your website different and why should I use it?

A: The first thing that makes this site different is that I focus on your privacy. Any website you visit has policies and terms that explain how they use your personal information. I've already taken the time to find these important documents for the websites in my inventory, so they're all in one place and you don't have to go looking for them.

Changes are often made to these documents without your knowledge, and can be significant. For example, a new term might be added stating that a picture you post can now be used for advertising. You would probably want to know if that happened. And now you can!

Nobody has time to read the entirety of these documents. So you can simply "subscribe" to them on my website and whenever they're updated, you'll be notified and can review what's changed. I'll take care of everything else.

You won't get unnecessary updates because I personally review every change before deciding if it is "worthy" of a notification email. Only the actual content of the document is compared, so other items such as headers, menus or footers are ignored. I also manually add a comment to each revision to help you decide whether you want to view it. All of the revision changes (from the time I started capturing them) can be viewed and compared on this website. Oh yeah, and it's completely free!

Q: Why is it free?

A: Because I feel like everyone has the right to know when the terms and conditions concerning their privacy are changed. In December 2013, the United Nations have declared that "...the same rights that people have offline must also be protected online, in particular the right to privacy". I believe that you have the right to be informed, and you shouldn't have to pay!

Q: How often do you check for changes?

A: Every 24 to 48 hours.

Q: How soon after a change is detected will you notify me?

A: As soon as possible! I personally review and comment on every change detected before sending out notifications to subscribers.

Q: How often will I get a notification?

A: That depends the sites you're subscribed to. Some companies update their documents often, others rarely. You can get an idea of how often a site makes updates by finding it on the Privacy Watch page and viewing its revision history (click on the name of the privacy document!). Regardless, I will not email you more than once a day. If several documents you follow have changed in the same day, I will still only email you once with a list of the changes.

Q: Why are certain websites missing from your search page?

A: Bear with me. Before releasing this website, I concentrated all of my efforts on making sure that the important functions were working, allowing you to compare documents, subscribe, and monitor your Watch List easily. In terms of the content available, this site is still in its infancy. I am expanding my ever-growing inventory of documents based on the feedback that I receive. So please send any suggestions and I will do my best to add those websites.

Q: What does the blue "beta" icon mean?

A: When software is new, a beta release indicates that you might still encounter glitches from time to time. Once I feel confident that all of these gitches have been fixed, the icon will be removed. (Interesting side note: did you know that Google's GMail was in "beta" mode for more than 5 years?)

Q: How do you determine a document's Version Date?

A: I do this in one of two ways. First, if the website has a last-modified date posted, then that's what I use. If not, then I use the date when I detected the change. However, sometimes websites don't change their last-modified date, even after making a change to the document! In that case, you'll see this "flag" icon to the left of the date: . That means that, without ParanoidPaul, you wouldn't have noticed the update even if you were checking the document every day!

Q: Why does the formatting look strange for some of the documents?

A: This depends on how the HTML code for that page was created. Some companies (even professional ones!) have really convoluted HTML code. I do my best to extract the text in a readable format, but some of the paragraph formatting is occasionally lost. Unfortunately, I can't really do anything about that, but at least the meat of the document is there and you'll be able to see what changed. If you want to see the original formatting, you can always view the latest (live) version of the document on the company's own website. To make it easy, I've placed a "View Official Document" link at the top of each document's Revision History page.

Q: How come I can't create an account and log into your website?

A: When I created this website, I wanted something that was easy to use, and was quick to sign up for. And above all, I wanted to minimize the personal information that I collect. If you haven't noticed, I'm a bit Paranoid about that! I don't even want to store your passwords in my database. I figure that intelligent, privacy-conscious users like you will have strong, secure passwords for their personal email accounts. So that's your gateway to access your Watch List on my website. Of course, to verify your identity, I'll have to send you a validation email from time to time. In my opinion, this minor inconvenience is well worth the benefits of not having to remember yet another password, or worry about how securely it is stored.

Q: So what information of mine do you store?

A: Not much. I store whatever name you give me, your email (for sending you notices) and a list of the documents that you've chosen to keep track of. For statistical purposes and to prevent fraudulent or automated abuse of this website, I also have access to the IP addresses and user agent strings of my visitors. That's pretty typical of any website you visit. See my Privacy Policy for more information.

Q: Okay so I've subscribed but now I would like to monitor new documents. How do I update my Watch List?

A: Your Watch List (on the Privacy Watch page) will contain your chosen websites for up to 30 days. You can always add or remove items, but you'll have to update your subscription to submit your changes. I'll then send you an activation link by email, so you can confirm your identity and finalize your updated list. Remember, ParanoidPaul doesn’t store passwords, so your list is as secure as your email login. If you're on a new computer, or if your cookies were deleted or have expired, you can access and modify your Watch List through the Existing Users link, found at the top right of every page. This ensures that your Watch List contains your most up-to-date subscriptions!

Q: I noticed some of the same documents are repeated across a few sites. For example, the Main Google Privacy Policy is also found under YouTube. Why is this, and which one should I subscribe to?

A: When several sites are owned by the same parent company, they may all use the same privacy document. I still list each site individually, so you can find what you're looking for easily. You may not know, for instance, that YouTube's privacy policy is the same as Google's. If you happen to subscribe to both, I'll only email you once to avoid filling up your inbox with redundant notifications. If you already know that two sites share a policy, then you only need to subscribe to one.

Q: Some privacy documents have "US" or "Canada" in their names. What gives?

A: Some websites have different terms for different countries. Where possible, the "default" or "worlwide" version of the privacy document is used, but if I notice that some of the terms are different between the US and Canada, I will add both. Sometimes it's worth checking for the ".com" or ".ca" version of the website, like with Amazon. Otherwise, the documents will be listed under the same parent website, like with YouTube.com. For the time being, I'm only supporting these two countries when the terms are not the same internationally.

Q: Why don't some of the historical revisions have comments?

A: Comments were only added as a feature later on in the evolution of ParanoidPaul. Currently, I try to always add a comment when a new revision is detected. If I indicate that it's a major update, then you'll probably want to see those changes for yourself. Sometimes only minor things are changed like "support contact information updated" which may not be of interest to you. I know your time is valuable so I want to give you a hint about what's been updated so you can decide whether to view those changes. The comments are meant to be objective and brief, and do not reflect my opinion of the change!

Q: Why can't you tell me what these updates mean?

A: I'm not a lawyer, and I can't interpret the documents for you. Instead, I want to empower users to be aware of how their information is used. If you're concerned by a particular policy or update, then get in touch with that site and ask them about it. Hopefully over time, this will force companies to be more transparent and accountable for changes that they make concerning your privacy.


Thanks for reading!

P.S. Check out my own Privacy Policy and Terms and Conditions. Also monitored by this website (how meta is that?).



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