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IP Editing: Privacy Enhancement and Abuse Mitigation/Summary

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Summarized update on IP Masking project (August 2021)
Summarized update on IP Masking project (August 2021)

What is IP Masking?

IP masking hides the IP addresses of unregistered editors on Wikimedia projects, fully or partially, from everyone except those who need access to fight spam, vandalism, harassment and disinformation.

Why is the Wikimedia Foundation masking IPs?

Anyone can edit Wikimedia wikis without a Wikimedia account. However, MediaWiki, the software on which Wikimedia projects run, stores and publishes in its public logs the IP addresses of contributors without an account. IP addresses are visible to anyone looking for them.

IP addresses are revealing. They can tell where you are editing from, and can be used to identify a specific person or device. This may create risks for editors who are not logged in. This is of particular concern for editors in places where the wikis are deemed controversial. Publishing their IP addresses may allow the government to locate them.

With changes to privacy laws and standards (e.g., the General Data Protection Regulation and the global conversation about privacy that it started), the Wikimedia Foundation has decided to protect user privacy by hiding IPs from the general public, and giving access to users who need to see them in order to protect the wikis and other users.

What is the plan for IP Masking?

Wikimedia projects have made a lot of use of stored and published addresses. They are used by administrators, bureaucrats and other functionaries who block vandals, sock puppets, editors with conflict of interests among other bad actors.

As we implement IP Masking, the Foundation is focusing on the effect of this project on the work of those who dedicate volunteer time to fight abuse on our wikis.

Ahead of masking IPs, we are working with the communities. Together we want to build tools to compensate for the restriction of access to IP addresses.

What tools are we building to mitigate the effects of IP Masking?

  1. We have built and conducted user testing for IP Info Feature – a tool that will display important information about an IP address which is commonly sought in investigations.
  2. We are also in the early stages of an Editor Matching Feature script that could assist in detecting when two editors exhibit similar editing behaviors.