[Foundation-l] check user...

Samuel Klein meta.sj at gmail.com
Mon Apr 2 14:47:14 UTC 2007

I passed on part of this thread to Jonathan Zittrain, an eminent lawyer 
and net scholar who enjoyed a misspent youth administering online fora, 
and has thought about related issues a great deal.  His comments below.

I see this as an issue of being clear about what is expected, what may
be required of people as a result of their actions in a role (in the 
descriptions of checkuser responsibilities), and what may happen with
user data (in the privacy policy).   There is nothing in any of this
that should limit the participation of younger community members.


---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Jonathan Zittrain  <...zed at law.harvard.edu>
Subject: Re: [Foundation-l] check user... (fwd)

In any case, it doesn't seem to me a youngster problem.  It's a broader agency 
problem -- volunteers are harder to rein in than "real" employees.  I see the 
same issue with CDA 230 immunity, since the way Wikipedia works necessarily 
blurs the line between who is Wikipedia and who is "another speaker," when 
Wikipedia only speaks through its volunteers.  (Substantively speaking, that 

I think the real solution would be a privacy policy that just lays all this 
out, and says there will be circumstances in which disclosures can take place, 
and people should take that into account from the start.  Then you don't have 
to exclude the kids.

> Bias against clever youngsters....  annoying.   S
> ---------- Forwarded message ----------
> Date: Sun, 01 Apr 2007 16:59:24 +0000
> From: Fred Bauder <fredbaud at waterwiki.info>
> To: Wikimedia Foundation Mailing List <foundation-l at lists.wikimedia.org>
> Subject: Re: [Foundation-l] check user...
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: wiki_tomos at inter7.jp [mailto:wiki_tomos at inter7.jp]
>> Sent: Saturday, March 31, 2007 11:33 PM
>> To: foundation-l at lists.wikimedia.org
>> Subject: [Foundation-l] check user...
>> I think check user generates certain legal risk to the Foundation especially
>> when he is a minor.
>> Wikimedia Foundation has a privacy policy. It seems the Foundation is
>> expressively promising that certain information will not be released
>> to the third party unless specific conditions are met.
>> And here, "third party release" does not include, at least the
>> way I read the privacy policy, release of personal information
>> from Wikimedia Foundation to a check user. It suggests that,
>> at least in the context of privacy policy, the check users are
>> insiders for the Foundation, not a third party.
>> This, in turn, means that the Foundation has a legal responsibility
>> to make check users to understand and follow its privacy policy.
>> So when check user breaks the promise - i.e. violate the Foundation's
>> privacy policy, one may question if the Foundation is partly responsible
>> for the violation.
>> If a check user is legally a minor, he may be able to legally get away with
>> breaking promises he has made, including the compliance with privacy policy.
>> I am not sure if minors really are less reliable than adults, but if they
>> are equally unreliable, then the Foundation is more responsible for minors'
>> violation of privacy policy than adults.
>> So, not because minors are less reliable, but because adults can bear
>> more legal risk when they abuse their check user privilege, it is legally
>> safer for the Foundation to limit the check user to adults.
>> How significant this difference? That is perhaps open to debate.
>> I personally think that the better course of action to mitigate the
>> legal risk is to treat check users as outsiders in the privacy policy.
>> I am not a lawyer, so be reminded that my reasoning could be flawed..
>> Best,
>> Tomos
> Your legal reasoning is fine, although a parent could sign off on the legal 
> liability. I think our problem is not with allowing a 15 year old to do 
> responsible work, but with the understandable skepticism we will face if we 
> ever have to explain it to a court or in the public press.
> Fred
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