Houston Al-Anon | Al-Ateen
Meeting Contacts Removed
For Houston and Surrounding Areas
August 30, 2009
At the August Intergroup Board Meeting, the Intergroup Board voted unanimously to discontinue publishing personal contact information for Al-Anon/Alateen events and meetings. This decision was based on an unanimous recommendation by the Intergroup Web Committee.
The decision was made to provide a notice – on web pages and the printed schedule – to contact the Intergroup, for those with questions and wanting additional information. We also provide "Contact" at the top of every web page.
Rationale Behind Decision
The decision was made in consideration of maintaining safety, anonymity, privacy and confidentiality. The Internet has changed, where privacy-erosion and cross-referenced searches are common, exposing not only the identity of members, but also personal information, their whereabouts and affiliations including Al-Anon/Alateen.
Unlike phone lists distributed in meetings, the Internet has a worldwide audience. Everyone has equal access to the information published on this website, and that information is cross-indexed and can be cross-referenced in many different ways, openly available to the public, to those interested and uninterested in Al-Anon/Alateen, globally, not just locally.
Today, phone and fax web spiders or phone "spam bots" scan Internet web pages for personal telephone numbers to be used in telemarketing lists. If you have received spam email, you likely began receiving it because your email address was advertised on an Internet web page, or your e-mail address was acquired by someone generating spam. The same is now true with telemarketing phone calls and faxes – phone and fax call lists are populated with numbers found on the Internet. This phenomena is relatively new on the Internet scene.
Today, more so than ever – due to published Internet reference information and search engines – it is easy to determine the personal information and identity of someone based on a telephone or cell phone number. It was easy to scan our meeting schedule contacts to determine what people did, and when. This contact information can be misused, and has been in other forums. By limiting distribution of contact information to meeting telephone lists or by phone – when you call our Intergroup or WSO – we can avoid these ready-made problems conveniently and easily, while providing service to the membership and the community. Many members of the fellowship are unaware of the risks in publishing contact information, or are learning about safety in the fellowship. Some members and new attendees have been subjected or are being subjected to (domestic) violence. Not having personally-connecting information made pubic – not only of that individual but of others in a group – provides for additional safety.
Per Traditions 11 and 12, Al-Anon is an anonymous and confidential organization. So, even when many members are "ok" with publishing their full name and other identification, we don't do it. This policy communicates to members and non-members that Al-Anon is a safe and confidential place to get help, and that we are an anoymous fellowship.
Tradition 5 states that our purpose is to help families, including friends, of alcoholics. There is no requirement to risk breaking anonymity, or providing a PERSONAL or PERSONAL WORK telephone number in a most public (worldwide) arena to satisfy Tradition 5. A prospective member or visitor can call Intergroup to get specific information or get transferred to a phone volunteer who can help them. Additionally, our meeting schedule can be used to find a meeting to attend and get help there—this is how we help one another! At the time of this decision, 91% of U.S. Al-Anon websites with online meeting schedules did not provide any form of personal meeting contact info online. Weighted by population, that number climbed to 94% (U.S. Census Bureau). That included all other Al-Anon/Alateen websites in Texas, except Amarillo:
Houston AA also does not. Although we do not aim to copy the rest of the world because we have our own group conscience, we notice that most Al-Anon/Alateen websites do not provide personal contact information online. Al-Anon WSO does not provide personal contact information online, either. We thought all of this was significant.
Before The Internet Online meeting schedules were not always available. At that time, it was not so easy to break the anonymity or pursue personal information about anyone. What did people do before the Internet? They called. Now, we provide that information or notice on our meeting pages, and the "Contact" link is at the top of every web page.
The Houston Intergroup is here to serve the community, the local membership and the Al-Anon/Alateen groups which in turn support the Intergroup. The decision was made weighing the many negatives along with the positives. By providing Intergroup contact information, we hope to satisfy the needs of the community.
Please pose your questions to the Intergroup Board or contact your District Representative for clarification on any matter. Also, please consider attending a quarterly Intergroup Board Meeting or bi-monthly District Meeting to voice additional concerns. The Intergroup Board and Districts will be more than happy to address your concerns.