[WikiEN-l] Privacy Study Looking for Volunteers

Andrew Gray andrew.gray at dunelm.org.uk
Mon Mar 30 16:49:37 UTC 2015

On 30 March 2015 at 00:24, Brian J Mingus <brian.mingus at colorado.edu> wrote:
> Just like the Netflix Prize, knowing which topics an entity is interested
> in, and having access to text they have written, is, in many cases, enough
> information to reveal who that person is, where they live, etc. You just
> plug the data into Google and correlate away.

Then if we want to stop being being able to identify our users, we
would have to stop allowing our users to write things...

More seriously, yes, we *could* do radical anonymisation of all
contributions to Wikipedia - it would be technically possible to make
every non-account contribution labelled "anonymous" (one giant
pseudo-account?) rather than an IP number, removing any linkage
between those edits. But that would have immense social costs on the
Wikipedia community - we would lose a substantial proportion of our
capacity to prevent spamming, vandalism, defamation, or other forms of
abuse, and put substantially more work on our volunteers handling
these problems.

I really doubt our overworked community would be able to cope with that.

Some kind of semi-anonymisation, as James suggests, is workable,
obfuscating IPs - but not complete disconnection. The other
alternative would be to close off unregistered contributions, which
has been discussed repeatedly in the past and is generally unpopular.
But it's achievable with our current setup, and if you want to change
things advocating for that might be a better approach.


- Andrew Gray
  andrew.gray at dunelm.org.uk

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