July 6th 2008

The Lilith eZine Sunday Edition

Letter from the Assistant Editor

Wikipedia is the ultimate tool for spammers and stalkers.

Think about it.

Thanks to the user information files you can look up a person's interests, everything they've ever added or talked about on Wikipedia, and provides a stalker with some pretty detailed personal information.

Furthermore, it allows people to contact all the users who have contributed to a particular topic or topics just by clicking on the e-mail this user link. I have several issues with this.

#1. This is a clear violation of my personal privacy, but Wikipedia's Privacy Policy is sadly in need of an update. Wikipedia allows users to contact other users as much as they like, allowing them to abuse the system for any nefarious reason with little or no policy on abuse.

#2. It allows anyone to view your personal information, and email you about it, possibly posing as a person of authority or celebrity, and then using that personage to con you.

#3. Children use Wikipedia frequently for school purposes. It is discouraged by teachers, but they still do. Wikipedia thus becomes a back door for pedophiles and stalkers to contact your children.

#4. It allows spammers to narrow their focus to only those people who contribute to a particular topic. ie. Viagra, breast implants, fashion knockoffs, etc. More spam for you just for being an active user.

#5. It also means that if you make a change or leave a comment on a topic that someone else doesn't like, that person can then snoop into your personal information and then harass you for it. Wikipedia is a virtual forum for a plethora of controversial topics... and such discussions are bound to get personal.

I have complained to Wikipedia about the privacy issue and was bluntly told that nothing less than a lawsuit would encourage them to change their Privacy Policy and change the ease of use that people have for invading other users' personal data. I've decided to go the other way: Public Pressure.

Please email info-en@wikimedia.org and complain about their lack of measures to protect the personal privacy of users. We live in a society today that values personal privacy, but thanks to the internet and Wikipedia's lack of measures that personal privacy can be very easily invaded.

Charles Moffat
Assistant Editor of the Lilith eZine

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