06 July 2008

Wikipedia Has a Poor Privacy Policy?

The Complaint
Lilith eZine posted a list of complaints regarding Wikipedia's Privacy Policy and Practices. Their main issue is with how Wikipedia displays email addresses on contributor profile pages. They have called for as many people as possible to email Wikipedia to ask them to change their privacy policy.

You can read their full article here.

If you even mildly agree with their points, I implore you to join them in their campaign.

Public Info Equals Credibility
Wikipedia is distinctly Web 2.0. This latest evolution of (world) culture is all about opening up, in creating discourse. If you have a problem with a contributor's views, or if you are beefing over what they present as fact, their contact information allows you to speak your mind.

Discourse and the presentation of "knowledge" should never be one-sided.

Public Info Invites Abuse
Of course, as with any website in general, you are bound to be subjected to spam and cons. It's not Wikipedia's fault that outsiders abuse their policy of openness. It is a risk that the contributor takes when they step up and speak their minds.

To use the example of Lilith eZine's organization: They receive so much hate mail that they have dedicated a blog to posting it all. If they didn't post their contact information, they wouldn't receive most of those letters. That was a risk they took in posting their contact info.

I dare say that this is a necessary risk, too. It's all about credibility. Media groups do it all the time - from listing the authors of articles to providing contact info. If you're not willing to step forward and say "I did this!" then you've lost credibility.

Wikipedia's Privacy Policy Is Clear
In regards to posted email addresses, the Wikipedia privacy policy says:
"You may provide your e-mail address in your Preferences and enable other logged-in users to send email to you through the wiki. Your address will not be revealed to them unless you respond, or possibly if the email bounces. [...]You can remove your email address from your preferences at any time to prevent it being used."
So, according to this statement, contributors have the choice of showing their email address or not. In other words; if you correctly create a Wikipedia account, you should understand what you've gotten yourself into.

Does Wikipedia Really Encourage Pedophilia?
I hadn't ever read about the whole pedophile issue until Lilith eZine brought it up. Quite frankly, it didn't seem like it would be an issue. After all, how many minors are actually creating Wikipedia accounts? It didn't seem likely.

I Googled up some news stories and discovered that Wikipedia has indeed been referred to as "pro-pedophilia." A deeper investigation, though, shows that this is actually more of a propaganda war being waged between Perverted Justice and Wikimedia. It's all a bunch of "he-said, she-said" nonsense.

Wikipedia claims that if they receive reports of pedophilia that they investigate, and that they have no qualms in banning the offenders. Perverted Justice claims that Wikipedia protects the pedophilic offenders.

The few articles that I found were unconvincing. Many listed some of the youngster's profiles that contain offending comments. When I clicked on the links, lo and behold, the profiles were no longer in existence. If this isn't a sign of Wikipedia's commitment to stamp out the pedophiles from their system, I don't know what is.

Users Are Ultimately Responsible
It's a tough job trying to monitor tens of thousands of profiles. The beauty about the user-generated model is that it allows members to take action. Thanks to the help of flags, pedophiles have a more and more difficult time staying hidden.

All I have to say about the issue of making basic user info public is...
If you're not willing to step forward, to take responsibility for what you've written, you have no right posting to Wikipedia.

Once again, I encourage you to read Lilith eZine's article regarding this issue. If you agree with their argument, consider joining them in their campaign to ask Wikipedia to change their privacy policy.

Imagine thousands of emails all requesting the same thing. That's the power of the masses; that's the power of democracy!

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