Christianity Today's website reported this week that Google changed its policies in February and is now allowing churches to qualify for its Google For Nonprofits program.
While basic Google services are free to use, the company has a variety of premium services, such as buying more space for your GMail account or setting up a large, multi-user installation of its Google Apps program. Google For Nonprofits offers those services to not-for-profit groups at a discount from their regular price. Some of those individual products had their own individual non-profit discounts, available to churches, prior to 2011. But in March of last year, Google combined those discounts into an umbrella program, Google For Nonprofits, and set up guidelines excluding political groups, churches, any group that prosletyzed or any group that considered religion or sexual orientation in hiring decisions.
In February, the company announced on a discussion board that it was revising the guidelines for Google For Nonprofits to include churches, as well as several other categories that had previously been excluded. To qualify, a church must be listed on Guidestar, a website listing information about nonprofits.
A professor at Notre Dame Law School told Christianity Today that Google's decision was probably motivated by business concerns. Although it may not make much selling discounted services to non-profits, the board members or volunteers of those non-profits, including churches, may also be involved in business, noted professor Lloyd Mayer. If Google offends an individual by denying service to his or her church, he or she may be less predisposed to trust Google at the office.
Microsoft also offers nonprofit pricing for some of its products, noted the Christianity Today article, and for security reasons some churches may be more interested in using computer-based applications than cloud-based applications like Google's.
Tech curmudgeon John C. Dvorak, in a column on the PC Magazine web site ( www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2402440,00... ), discusses some of the "do"s and "don't"s for using the blind carbon copy (bcc:) feature in e-mail messages. That's well and good, but I think a lot of people don't realize what bcc: is in the first place, and they should.
Most e-mail programs or web interfaces give you the option of sending a message to someone three ways: as the direct recipient (to:), as a carbon copy recipient (cc:), or as a blind carbon copy recipient (bcc:).
In theory, to: is used for the primary recipient of an e-mail, cc: and bcc: for other recipients. The difference between cc: and bcc: is that if I receive an e-mail, I can look at the header and see all the people who are listed as to: and cc: recipients of that e-mail, but I cannot see any of the bcc: recipients listed. That's why bcc: is called a "blind" carbon copy.
Dvorak talks about bcc: as a way of giving a confidante a quiet "heads up" about a conversation you're having with someone else, and notes that the person who receives a bcc: should probably treat it as confidential and not reply directly to it or reveal having received it.
But there's another way to use bcc:. If I'm e-mailing a large group of people, not all of whom know each other or have access to each other's e-mail addresses, I may not want to put all of those addresses in the to: or cc: lines. Some people are more public with their e-mail addresses and contact information than others. By putting the bulk of the addresses under bcc:, I keep everyone's e-mail address private. It's just a more courteous way of handling mass e-mails. You can pick someone as the to: address whom you know won't object to having their e-mail made public, or just use an alternate e-mail of your own.
--John I. Carney is city editor of the Times-Gazette and covers county government. He is also the author of the self-published novel "Soapstone." His personal web site is lakeneuron.com.