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Understanding Privacy

Online Privacy

Image by Flickr user rpongsaj, used under CC-BY.

As the internet has grown, it has made it easier than ever to connect with other people from across the globe. But this ease of connection has made it harder for us to maintain the same level of privacy we do in the offline world. When you meet someone on the street, it’s easy to regulate your conversation with them to make sure you aren’t giving away more information than you’re comfortable with.

It’s a different story online, where you constantly broadcast your IP address, location information, and other types of data before you even start typing. Add to that the ease with which social networks and other websites allow you to share information about yourself, like your real name, your email address, phone number or other vital statistics and soon you may be sharing more than you realize with people you don’t even know.

Did you know that we have a Privacy Policy that specifically addresses your personal information on Wikia?

Our Privacy Policy

The goal of any privacy policy is to answer some basic questions about the way we handle your data. It's important to note that the Policy only covers Wikia's practices, and not those of any third parties. Ours is written to be as user-friendly as possible, but here is a quick rundown of what it covers.

What do we collect what do we do with it?

If you are contributing anonymously, we record your IP address alongside every edit.

If you register for an account, we collect your username, email address, and date of birth (which we use to verify your age) during the sign-up process. After that, your username is assigned to every edit, and we keep a record of your contributions. We also provide an opportunity to share some Optional Information, including your interests and hobbies, which is publicly visible on your userpage.

Using your birth name as your username can create problems further down the road, as it will forever be attached to your contributions, so think long and hard before using any personally identifiable information in this public space.

Of course, whatever text or media you add to Wikia will be available to the public, and as you license it under the CC-BY-SA it will stay available.

In addition to the things we directly ask for, there are a few automatic bits of data collection that happen. Things like the time of your visit, your browser type, and your browser's language setting provide valuable tools to help diagnose and fix bugs. We also send cookies to your browser. A cookie is a small piece of data sent from a website and stored in a user's browser.

How (and when) do we share your information?

If you edit anonymously, your IP address is made publicly visible in the edit history of the page. This is the way that Mediawiki software keeps track of who is made specific changes to an article.

Editing with a registered account means that your username and some basic facts about the contribution appear in the edit history, like the time and date. Your edit history is also publicly visible on your contributions page.

Wikia still internally records your IP address with every edit, but it is only accessible by Wikia Staff or trusted volunteers like the Volunteer Spam Task Force (VSTF). We don’t share this information on request, although we do verify if two user accounts share an IP address when an Admin is having trouble with disruptive sockpuppets.

The cookies we use are designed to either enhance site functionality (keeping you logged in, storing certain preferences, etc.) or to work in conjunction with our advertising partners. Have you ever wondered how ads change to reflect a topic or place you just searched? That happens because of the cookie set on your browser. You can opt out of these types of cookies, but not seeing advertisements on Wikia altogether. To do so, follow the link found in our Privacy Policy. Advertising is an important part of our business model, and being able to place the most relevant ads is something that helps us keep our communities free and open to all.

There is also a setting called Do Not Track. When a web browser requests content or sends data, it can include extra information optionally in one or more items called "headers". Do Not Track adds a header indicating that the user does not want to be tracked. This can be done via browser preferences or through any number of extensions. Disabling cookies might change the way you experience our site, but it is allowed.

Aside from these specific cases, we also reserve the right to share your information with our subsidiaries and affiliated companies, contractors, and vendors. When we do, we require them to process your information under the same safeguards and restrictions as we do.

Lastly, we also need to be able to share information when required by law enforcement agencies, or in discrete circumstances where we need to investigate a breach of security. These instances are rare but our Privacy Policy makes clear that they could happen.

Further Privacy Considerations

In addition to our Privacy Policy, we also have a Terms of Use that you must agree to when you create your Wikia account. Our Terms also include some provisions designed to make sure that our users respect your privacy. For instance, you can't:

“Post or transmit any content that … otherwise violates any law or right of any third party,”

This can include all publicity and privacy rights. Under this, you’re not allowed to submit any content that violates another person’s privacy, whether they are a Wikia user or anyone else.

“Post or transmit any communication or solicitation designed or intended to obtain password, account, or private information from any Wikia user;”

This keeps people from using Wikia as a place to collect private information. Trying to solicit real names, addresses, account names, or any other private information is a kind of phishing, and we don’t allow it on Wikia.

“Solicit personal information from any user under the age of 18”

As a rule, you shouldn’t ask anyone for their personal info on Wikia, but we take special notice when it comes to our younger users. In fact, we have taken extra steps to make sure we fully comply with specialized privacy laws dedicated to limiting data collection from children.

Aside from these specific restrictions, there are other common-sense privacy factors to consider for your wikia.

While there is a lot to learn about your fellow community members, you are not permitted to create a storehouse of information or use Wikia as a means of gathering or compiling any private info. This includes things like wikias dedicated to tracking real people, or pages “doxing” or purposely creating dossiers of private info.

Ultimately, it’s up to you to determine how much of yourself you are willing to share, but you should think carefully before publicly posting any of the following info:

  • full name
  • physical address
  • email address
  • age
  • date of birth
  • social security number, or other government issued identifier
  • images of yourself

In no case should you make contributions that reveal any of those items about anyone else, with or without their explicit permission. If you see this type of info appearing on your community, it’s a good idea to educate users about the possible dangers.

One of the hardest areas to consider is re-using personal information that has already been shared elsewhere on the internet. It’s hard to make something that has been published go away once it exists in the digital ether. In general, we discourage any user from posting images or linking to others' Facebook or other social networking profiles directly from Wikia. Mentioning other online presences can be OK, but it depends on the context. Combining private information with personal attacks is never something we allow.

Final thoughts

In our current social climate, topics like sharing and privacy are in the news every day. Wikia takes your privacy very seriously, and we are always willing to answer any questions or discuss these matters with you. Please feel free to send any specific questions, comments, or concerns to us via Special:Contact or comment below.

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