Requests for comment/Public or non-public personal information

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The following request for comments is closed. The request was successfully resolved.

What is public and non-public personal information? Is information available in the history of a user's page and elsewhere on any Wikimedia project pages public or non-public, i.e., is it covered by the same content rules that apply to all Wikimedia material or not?

Sincerely,

Virgilio A. P. Machado

Vapmachado 22:54, 26 July 2010 (UTC)

Personal information about a user is public or private according whit privacy police and right to vanish. The desire of be anonymous is respect in any wikimedia project.
And just to context for others: Vap problem is because a page that he create in pt.wiki contain real name, occupation, hometown, age and personal habits of some administrators of pt.wiki and be deleted (of course). Béria Lima Msg 19:25, 27 July 2010 (UTC)
==Expansion and example by Vapmachado== Thank you so very much for NOT answering my questions, publicizing my request for comment on the wikipt@lists.wikimedia.org mailing list, and for reminding me of how you and your fellows of the Portuguese Wikipedia would make their best efforts to attack me by calling me Vap. By the way, sometime, somewhere, we ought to go over the courses and schools you claim to have been attending all over the place and establish once and for all what you have been doing in the past few years, and please don't forget to give proper and reliable sources. You are a bit late with your warning here in Meta about the troubles you are so glad were made to measure for me at the Portuguese Wikipedia. A couple of your friends have already taken care of that, albeit without much success, almost two weeks ago. Time to give it your best shot: I'll take you and all other readers, particularly my very good friend and member of our mutual admiration society Sir Lestaty de Lioncourt, through a step by step example, to make it easier on everybody, and present a clear case, hopefully without violating anybody's privacy. You are welcome to post your answers right after each question. Consider [[pt:Usu�rio:Alexanderps|Alexanderps]]. I would like to know if it is disclosure of private data of another user account without that user permission, to post on one of your own subpages the following: :The example from pt.wiki is now placed here; it's used as starting point for this RfC. 07:50, 13 August 2010 (UTC)
Personal information about an user removed. Feel free to add all personal information about yourself, but not directing to other and pointing attention to it! -- Done by meta admin Barras
 :Off topic moved to talk. 07:50, 13 August 2010 (UTC) To make it easy to understand the nature of the questions concerning [[pt:Usu�rio:Alexanderps|Alexanderps]], I'll try to reproduce, in a dedicated section below, how the alleged breach of privacy occurred. An English translation, to the best of my abilities, is also be provided, but first some background notes. I was asked: "Who are the Portuguese Wikipedia administrators"? I didn't know. I had compiled some information that I have published on several locations (in Portuguese), with the following results: There are about 40 administrators. Since Oct. 6, 2009, there are no female administrators. Seven have Portuguese nationality. The average number of votes that got the current administrators elected is 38, but someone was elected by 10 votes. The total number of votes in those "elections" has always been below 70. The percentage of favorable votes with respect to the total averages 92 percent and more than one forth of the administrators has been elected with 100 percent of the votes cast. That was all I knew. I still didn't know who were the Portuguese Wikipedia administrators. So I set out to find out, searching what was available on Wikimedia, but mostly on the Portuguese Wikipedia, under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License, taking into consideration the Terms of Use. I started with the alphabetical list of administrators and as the search progressed I posted the results on one of my own user ill-fated subpages that I named "Who's who in the Portuguese Wikipedia. 2010" ([[pt:Usu�rio:Vapmachado/Quem � Quem na Wikip�dia. 2010]]). I believe readers are more comfortable with the depiction of the alleged offending material, hopefully without violating anybody's privacy. More questions like 1, 3, and 4 could be asked about what will be shown below. Please bear in mind the statement and request made just before any of the information published: "The editor should be informed, immediately, of any alleged violations." That I'm still asking of each and every reader. Thank you so much for your patience and understanding. Despite so much undeserving attention and a complete failure to engage in even the most basic dialog, supposedly experienced users have preferred to take unilateral action than do as requested, repeatedly: "The editor should be informed, immediately, of any alleged violations." One is starting to doubt if they actually read what is on this page or if are only acting based on some preconceived idea, the desire to please a third party, or need for survival, but that, of course, is just a user's "personal opinion." Let's retrace what is supposed to be commented here: What is public and non-public personal information? Is information available in the history of a user's page and elsewhere on any Wikimedia project pages public or non-public, i.e., is it under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License, taking into consideration the Terms of Use, or not? :Off topic moved to talk. 07:50, 13 August 2010 (UTC) Sincerely, Virgilio A. P. Machado Vapmachado 01:27, 12 August 2010 (UTC)

Comments[edit]

From Privatemusings[edit]

the heart of this rfc is, in my view, the old wiki problem about identity, and anonymity - whether or not it's polite, appropriate, or even allowed to synthesise public information out there to find out about folk's 'real world' names and details etc.

Over on the english wikipedia, editors' real world names and occupations are routinely discussed at the conflict of interest noticeboard - but that's really the only context it's allowed at all. Clearly it's not a matter of principle, but were you to address an editor by their real name, it's likely to be something that they can raise in any dispute resolution process against you, regardless of whether or not they revealed the information, and independently of any asserted harm - it's just considered a big bad thing to do.

I'll watch this page, but I'm not sure there's really the appetite to discuss the matter here - if you're up for a 'learning project' in english - you could copy this stuff over to Wikiversity where I'm probably interested in collaborating with you in learning and discussing this stuff :-) cheers, Privatemusings 06:30, 6 August 2010 (UTC)


Thank you for your comment. I really appreciate you taking the time to write and watch this page. There are many ways to look at the same problem. I'm comfortable with your view that at "the heart of this rfc is [...] the old wiki problem about identity, and anonymity.

I do think there's all the difference between "polite", "appropriate", and "allowed". Without getting into the details, I would like to keep this discussion within the "allowed" domain. By "allowed" I mean text available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License and the Terms of Use. The reason is straightforward: if it's not allowed it can hardly be "appropriate" or "polite;" if it is allowed you're entitled to find that something is not "polite" or "appropriate", but you can't disallowed it (unless you change the rules first).

The question is not about synthesizing "public information out there." The information concerned is available on Wikimedia projects and made available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License and the Terms of Use. On the page, I'll give a couple of examples where the information was "out there" so readers can have a feeling for how differently that was handled and presented.

Let me reinforce the case by emphasizing that the information was made available by the users themselves. No third parties were involved. There is no claim as to that information truthfulness, only verifiability.

You give an example of the English wikipedia. I'm not familiar with that wikipedia policies, but the little knowledge that I have of the law leads me to believe that you can't have any "local" policies that contradict a more "general" policy. Any "local" policy that contradicts a more "general" one is void and non binding by that mere fact. Someone with a legal background would be able to explain this better than me.

I didn't understand what you meant by "Clearly it's not a matter of principle."

How to address an editor is an entirely different matter. First of all, I believe it falls into the rules of common courtesy. You can see for yourself, on this page, an example of a failure to do so when I was addressed by "Vap." Nobody was address or intended to be addressed by anything. Only verifiable statements were made about users. Like everything else published here, they were addressed to the readers, whoever they might be.

I respect everybody's appetites for discussion. I don't see much point in discussing the trivial. If there are no objections, I take that as a tacit agreement to proceed with my case.

What is a "learning project" on the English Wikiversity? I don't see how this matter fits into the scope of that project, as sated on the welcome section of the main page. I appreciate your willingness and interest in collaborating with me there. I consider this matter an "unresolved conflict" involving "other issues in regards to other Wikimedia projects" whose "discussion on the relevant project" has not only been unsuccessful but made impossible by the party with the opposing view. Perhaps once it comes to a close the results and lessons can be taken elsewhere, wherever they are appropriate.

Thank you again so much for your attention.

Sincerely,

Virgilio A. P. Machado

Vapmachado 01:13, 7 August 2010 (UTC)


From Thogo[edit]

What you are doing is called stalking and is prohibited by law in some countries. At least it is provoking and trolling, and it does not serve the goals of the project (and is therefore not desirable). I would actually block you if you did that on a wiki where I'm sysop. That's just all I have to say about that. --თოგო (D) 14:40, 10 August 2010 (UTC)

it is both a vast overreaction, and rather murderous of language to describe the above in any way as 'stalking' (not to mention debasing the horrible plight that genuine victims of such experience) - it's unfortunate to react in this way, because it closes down what might be useful and helpful discussion about an issue which has caused great harm across the wikis (though not perhaps in the way you might perceive it ;-) Privatemusings 02:48, 12 August 2010 (UTC)
  • On the English Wikipedia, there are a quarter-million BLPs (Biographies of Living Persons) with varying disclosures of personal information about them, gleaned from reliable public sources (including the subject's own public writings). It occurs to me that whatever is kosher to include in a BLP is kosher to write about an editor of a WMF-sponsored site. If an editor here voluntarily discloses personal information in their writings here, that's the same as the subject of any BLP disclosing comparable personal information. What's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. —Albatross 01:45, 12 August 2010 (UTC)

That is an interesting point. I had not thought about that. I was doing my search in total good faith. I even ommited some "strange" information about the administrators. I thought it could be taken as too picky, tacky, and/or of debatable relevance anyway. For me it was a given that since the information was in Wikimedia files, had been disclosed by the users themselves, and was being used inside a Wikimedia project, there was no problem whatsoever. Some of the information that was recently deleted from this page is on the current user page of that administrator, not on some earlier version. Another interesting case is the "edit counter" if you look at the page Administradores it is right there (the forth parameter: edições) for each and everyone of them. So what is the problem with that? This whole thing is on very shaky ground. Do you see anybody giving straight answers? Guess why? But this, of course is just a user's "personal opinion".

Best regards,

Virgilio A. P. Machado

Vapmachado 03:14, 12 August 2010 (UTC)

From 192.38.120.228[edit]

It is peculiar to compare contributors to a Wikimedia wiki to notable public figures or an encyclopaedic article to a list of personal info gathered from userpages mingled with speculation based on internet searches for a user name. It is hard for me to see what is the purpose of such a list, taking into account the mission of Wikimedia, even if the user says he is compiling it in good faith. It is rather out of scope. And speaking of BLPs, it would be curious to see what would happen if you tried to publish what you found into a real encyclopaedic article about these "regular joe's". My guess is that their notability would be challenged, and the article deleted, or reliable sources would be requested, which would make most of the information deletable, or the BLP policy would be taken into consideration, in particular the part about people who are relatively unknown (in this case, completely unknown to the general audience), and most of the information deleted. So, if indeed what goes for any biography goes for this information, the page SHOULD be deleted.

Of course, there is a big difference between encyclopaedic content and the user space. User space is not so strictly under content policies, but rather under conduct policies, for which the most relevant appears to be this one. This sentence is quite clear: "Personal information includes legal name, date of birth, identification numbers, home or workplace address, job title and work organisation, telephone number, email address, or other contact information, whether any such information is accurate or not." If you gathered information from other sources other than their user pages, this should not have been published, whether it is accurate or not, whether you say it is him/her or just speculate. This other sentence is also important: "If an editor has previously posted their own personal information but later redacted it, their wishes should be respected, though reference to self-disclosed information is not outing." I repeat, their wishes should be respected. Not doing so seems to me a breach of etiquette. 192.38.120.228 13:04, 12 August 2010 (UTC)


Interesting comment. Thank you for taking the time and effort. There's so much content in those two paragraphs that it might take several hours to discuss it all. Better get on with it. This is not addressed to the person who wrote the comment, who is not known. This is a comment on what was written, addressed to the readers.

  1. It might be "peculiar to compare contributors to a Wikimedia wiki to notable public figures," but to say it was an interesting point is much nicer and polite.
  2. According to the matter at hand the comparison was between "administrators of the Portuguese Wikipedia" and "notable public figures."
  3. The "notable public figure" criteria in the Portuguese Wikipedia is still under discussion.
  4. There no place here for a discussion that would supersede the discussion taking place in the Portuguese Wikipedia.
  5. That discussion concerns criteria for articles and lists. No articles or lists were written.
  6. What was written was a single user subpage that included a very small set of data about the Portuguese Wikipedia administrators. Data published under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License, taking into consideration the Terms of Use. The page contained data about two administrators and was incomplete with respect to a third one.
  7. So, that was an interesting, peculiar, whatever point, but does not address the matter at hand, so lets move on.
  8. It might be "peculiar to compare [...] an encyclopaedic article to a list of personal info gathered from userpages mingled with speculation based on internet searches for a user name," but that looks pretty... speculative.
  9. Wikipedia articles were mentioned, and "speculation based on internet searches for a user name" might refer to one question and a statement made about one of the three administrators. Let's recall that a specific request was made: "The editor should be informed, immediately, of any alleged violations."
  10. Anybody can object to that question and statement, but only one person can decide if they should stay, be removed, or cleared: the administrator himself. None of those requests or confirmation was ever made to the editor.
  11. "It is hard for me to see what is the purpose of such a list, taking into account the mission of Wikimedia," Foundation was left out. Omissions might have dire consequences, like making things hard to understand and/or misleading others. One lies by omission by omitting an important fact, deliberately leaving another person with a misconception.
  12. "The mission of the Wikimedia Foundation is to empower and engage people around the world to collect and develop educational content under a free license or in the public domain, and to disseminate it effectively and globally." If anybody gets hung up on the "educational content" there are thousands of pages that can be used to illustrate the "educational content" of most Wikipedias. An "education" you'll get for sure.
  13. Again, were talking here about a user subpage in the works, not about thousands of Wikipedia articles. The comparison is preposterous, and to bring up the Wikimedia Foundation Mission, in this context, is like invoking the Constitution. It doesn't have to do with anything. Just a smoke bomb.
  14. The question "Who are the Portuguese Wikipedia administrators?" was asked. "It's a secret," does not sound very educative. "It's a secret society," sounds even worse.
  15. Get an education, because no such statement could be found in the English Wikipedia: The Portuguese Wikipedia is not a secret society. That's getting harder and harder to believe, given the current trend of events, but at least, everybody can marvel at the image in very bad taste that illustrates that section.
  16. "If the user says he is compiling it in good faith." It is even in worse taste to question the intentions of others, when the facts do not give you any credence. Who would believe that the user page was developed in plain sight, if the editor new it was not allowed? To publish it elsewhere on the Web is as easy as one, two, three. Why bother with a RfC on Meta, if there's no conviction that the editor was wronged?
  17. "It is rather out of scope." Well, focus the darn thing! Read all the above points one more time.
  18. Of course pages and pages can be filled "speaking of BLP" but that is "rather out of scope", because no BLP's or articles of any kind were written. All together now: "It was a user subpage." Got it?
  19. "It would be curious to see what would happen if you tried to publish what you found [in a paper] encyclopaedic article about these "regular joe's"." It would be even more "curious to see what would happen if you tried to publish what you found [in most Wikipedias, Portuguese Wikipedia included,in a paper] encyclopaedic article about [you know what]."
  20. It is very odd that reference is made to "a real encyclopaedic article." That statement might lead to the conclusion that Wikipedia is not a real encyclopedia with "real encyclopaedic article[s]."
  21. "User space is not so strictly under content policies, but rather under conduct policies, for which the most relevant appears to be this one. This sentence is quite clear:"
  22. "Posting another person's personal information is harassment, unless that person voluntarily had posted his or her own information, or links to such information, on Wikipedia. There's only one way that very first sentence of the section could have been missed.
  23. That phrase is just before the one quoted. The section was misread, but that not deters from the fact that, again, an omission was made, making things hard to understand and/or misleading others. One lies by omission by omitting an important fact, deliberately leaving another person with a misconception.
  24. Since all that was posted was personal information voluntarily posted by the administrators themselves on Wikipedia, the sentence so carefully quoted, while omitting the other, has no relevance whatsoever. "You irrevocably agree to release your contributions under the CC-BY-SA 3.0 License and the GFDL. You agree that a hyperlink or URL is sufficient attribution under the Creative Commons license."
  25. Concerning "information from other sources other than their user pages", let's add to what has already been said in numbers 9 and 10, that only links were provided: one to a picture, another to a blog home page, concerning a single administrator. The picture was NOT reproduced, contrary to the one available for another administrator on Commons. Neither, of course, were the blog entries posted.
  26. None of these two links provided any of the "personal information" listed on the sentence quoted or other "contact information" that was not voluntarily posted by the administrators themselves on Wikipedia. "If you do not want your writing to be edited, used, and redistributed at will, then do not submit it here."
  27. "This other sentence is also important: "If an editor has previously posted their own personal information but later redacted it, their wishes should be respected, though reference to self-disclosed information is not outing."
  28. What exactly is "redacted"? [1]
  29. Information that is on the user page isn't "redacted" for sure. Neither are pictures on Commons, user names and signatures, that remain the same. If one goes through the list, there isn't a single example there where the "information [has been] later redacted."
  30. Redacting the information that is on the history of the user page would be like if an administrator said he own a cat, and he gave away, sold, or the cat died. Now he doesn't own a cat. No such information was posted.
  31. Redacting one's own name, is possible, if one goes through the proper legal procedures, but there's been no mention of any such thing happening. None of the information posted has ever been "redacted."
  32. "I repeat, their wishes should be respected. Not doing so seems to me a breach of etiquette." That's why is was posted "The editor should be informed, immediately, of any alleged violations."
  33. As already mentioned in number 10, no such requests were ever received from any of those three administrators.

Warm regards,

Virgilio A. P. Machado

Vapmachado 01:28, 18 August 2010 (UTC)

Closure[edit]

It is time to close this requests for comment about public or non-public personal information policy. The request was opened July 26, and the last post was made Aug. 18. An announcement of the request was made on Talk:Oversight when the request was opened on July 26, diff with another call for comments on a related ongoing discussion, this past Sep. 17. diff.

The question was: What is public and non-public personal information? Is information available in the history of a user's page and elsewhere on any Wikimedia project pages public or non-public, i.e., is it covered by the same content rules that apply to all Wikimedia material or not?

The above statement was made more specific on Aug. 12: What is public and non-public personal information? Is information available in the history of a user's page and elsewhere on any Wikimedia project pages public or non-public, i.e., is it under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License, taking into consideration the Terms of Use, or not?diff

There was an interesting and sometimes "lively" discussion including some "off topic" comments that another user moved to the discussion page.

To close this request, the following was taken into consideration:

  • The 33 points stated above as of Aug. 18diff
  • The concept of consensus. "Editors usually reach consensus as a natural and inherent product of editing; generally someone makes a change or addition to a page, then everyone who reads it has an opportunity to leave the page as it is or change it."
  • Level of consensus. "Consensus among a limited group of editors, at one place and time, cannot override community consensus on a wider scale. For instance, participants in a WikiProject cannot decide that some generally accepted policy or guideline does not apply to articles within its scope, unless they can convince the broader community that such action is right. Policies and guidelines reflect established consensus, and their stability and consistency are important to the community."
  • An essay, which explains in unequivocal terms (and what terms...) that:
    • "INFORMATION RELEASED BY YOU ON THE WIKI IS NOT COVERED BY THE PRIVACY POLICY"
    • "If you post, "My name is John Smith" on some obscure page, someone will remember it, keep a diff, and bring it up at the most inopportune time years later. We don't have to do anything to remove that information. Seriously. If you don't get this point, read it again. It's that important."
    • "Caveat: Your fellow Wikimedians may well happily try to oblige you if you make a mistake. Please see the first point, however. Also, everyone else you interact with is also a volunteer here. Nobody has to do your bidding."
    • There's no "delete "My kitty's name is Snuffles and lives with me at 410 West Pennsylvania in Omaha, Nebraska" off your user page history."
    • "Years later, people can look at your history and see the very first edit you ever made. Try to not have it be ERIC IS A FAG in the middle of the Butterfly article. Really."
    • "If you ever decide to run for a position in the community such as admin, bureaucrat, steward, arbcom, or similar, people will dig up your past edits, search for your mistakes, and flaunt them. I can't say don't make mistakes, but ... try to not do them on purpose."
    • "You Own Nothing"
      • "Everything on Wikipedia, from the articles to "your" user and talk pages, are for the benefit of the community. While it's called "your" user page, it belongs to the Foundation. Everything on your userpage is covered by the GNU Free Document License, so anything you post...yes, even on your user page...can be taken, modified, and used for commercial purposes. Even the picture of your dog Trixie wearing the cute little outfit on Halloween. They just have to attribute the original version to you. That's it."
    • "The GFDL is not revocable"
      • " "That's it, I'm leaving and taking my contributions with me!" ... sorry, better read the license again. By editing here, you're giving the public the unlimited, irrevocable right to reuse your contributions any way they want, as long as you get attribution. Again, Wikipedia is mirrored, so everything you post is almost immediately commercially exploited and made into derivative works. That's why we chose this license."

Therefore, this request led to the the following conclusion:

Information available in the history of a user's page and elsewhere on any Wikimedia project pages is public, i.e., it is under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License, taking into consideration the Terms of Use.

Challenges to this closing are welcome. Please use the discussion page or open a new request.

Vapmachado 22:22, 19 September 2010 (UTC)