phoebe ayers wrote:
>As for cost, remember that the ACLU is filing the suit on the
>plaintiffs' (us) behalf. My understanding is our major investment here
>is coordination time and our good name.

The fact that the Wikimedia Foundation is being used as a convenient
vehicle makes me feel a bit more uneasy in some ways.

>Whether it's worth us getting involved -- I'd argue of course it is.
>The developments of the last few years about mass surveillance have
>been egregious, even for the cynical among us. We (Wikimedia) are in a
>rare position for an online organization -- of being widely used,
>international, beloved, not beholden to corporate or government
>interests, and with strong values of privacy, inclusion and openness,
>which is reflected in everything from allowing anonymous editor
>accounts to not tracking what our readers read. We also happen to be
>based in the U.S., so can do things like file lawsuits here.

You make a number of good points here. But I think the larger question is
whether the Wikimedia Foundation should be involved in political advocacy.
Yes, I've read the arguments about Wikimedia's existence itself being a
political statement, but I'm not sure I buy this line of thought.

Education is apolitical. I don't see making the leap from being an
educational non-profit with an unusually heavy focus on engineering to
doing all of this and also engaging in political advocacy as being a very
good idea. If anything, we should play to our strengths and use technology
to mitigate surveillance as much as is reasonable, if this is a real
concern to our users. The extent to which Wikimedia users are concerned
still seems arguable, as people have noted that other sites such as
Facebook and Google contain far more private and personal information.[*]

>I trust our legal team to make decisions about what legal actions to
>participate in.

It's been noted that there are a lot of legal issues around the world that
the Wikimedia Foundation legal team could attempt to resolve. In fact, in
probably any case, helping out in some small country would be a lot more
likely to have a positive result over trying to fight the U.S. government.
Mass surveillance is an abomination, but I think the role of the Wikimedia
Foundation is to develop, support, and grow Wikimedia projects and I'm not
sure this lawsuit is really doing that.

Whether the Wikimedia Foundation should be engaged in political advocacy,
and if so, who decides when and to what extent, seem like issues where
there should be Wikimedia community, Board, and staff involvement.

I'm wary of the precedent that we're setting here in terms of this being
cited in the future as a reason to join other legal actions around the
world. I'm also wary of of the potentially dangerous and unbalanced power
it gives staff members to use Wikimedia as a political tool. I happen to
sympathize with the position being taken today, but what about the future?

Thank you for the thoughtful and informative reply. :-)


[*] Just as a side note, tracking users also comes up in the context of
trying to determine the number of unique page views for Wikimedia wikis.
There are values and principles questions at play, on a global scale.

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