(Today we are posting an English translation of a blog post from German Wikipedians outlining concerns about the handling of Wikipedia user data, or metadata. Above that post you will find the Foundation’s response to those concerns).
Response to user appeal
This discussion has already helped us to understand the diverse range of views in our large, international community (each month, more than 75,000 users contribute to Wikimedia projects in more than 200 languages). As part of this discussion, about 120 German Wikipedia contributors who advocate for more stringent privacy rules have made a statement and published it on the German chapter’s blog (English translation below). We welcome the contribution of these editors, and hope that the resulting discussion will strengthen the policy. However, while we hear and respect these concerns, the WMF was not invited to explain its position during the drafting of the statement, and so we’d like to do so here.
As the authors of the statement mention, the past year has seen increased global concern about privacy and the activities of intelligence agencies in both the US and Europe. The Wikimedia Foundation is extremely sensitive to those concerns, and we have taken several steps to address them, including joining activism here in the US, encrypting more traffic to and from the Wikimedia sites, and assuring readers that we have not been contacted under the surveillance programs at issue.
The Wikimedia Foundation also protects its readers by collecting very little information, particularly relative to most major websites. Editors who create an account do not have to connect their account to a real-world identity unless they choose to do so. It is possible to read and use the Wikimedia sites without providing your real name, home address, email address, gender, credit card or financial information. In all but a few cases (related to abuse prevention), we delete IP addresses of logged-in editors after 90 days. All in all, there is small incentive for governments to contact WMF and request information about Wikimedia users.