MISC. 20


Wikimedia, the nonprofit that operates Wikipedia and various other collaboratively edited “wikis”, has a single set of user agreements that apply to all of its projects. These agreements are the highest scoring in our survey by some margin. Wikimedia is committed to collecting and retaining the “least amount of personally identifiable information needed” to operate its projects. This objective has produced a sensible and eminently fair privacy policy that should be a model for any company that is serious about its users’ rights.

Data Use

Wikimedia’s Privacy Policy provides very detailed information about the data it collects from you and the period of time for which that data is retained. It also expressly limits the collection of personally identifiable user data to “purposes which serve the well-being of its projects”. This level of transparency is unmatched by any of the other sites surveyed.

Most people understand that Wikipedia is a free encyclopedia, and so it should be no surprise that any content you contribute is licensed under a Creative Commons license that allows others to copy and adapt the work as long as they provide attribution and license the resulting work under similar terms.

SCORE: 25 / 25
  • Wikipedia collects only information that is necessary for it to provide its service

Data Disclosure

Like all of the other websites in this survey, Wikimedia can disclose your personal information to third parties in certain circumstances. These include to respond to a subpoena, to investigate abuse, and to “protect the rights, property or safety of the Wikimedia Foundation, its users or the public”. If Wikimedia receives a government request to release information about a registered user, it promises to notify that user within 3 business days (provided that the user has an email address associated with his or her account). This is the only agreement we read that promises to notify a user of a government request within a defined timeframe.

SCORE: 22 / 25
  • Wikipedia can share your data with third parties
  • Wikipedia promises to inform you of government data requests within 3 days

Amendment & Termination

Any amendment to the Terms of Use will be provided to the Wikimedia community for comment for at least 30 days. Wikimedia seems likely to take this community involvement phase seriously. The most recent draft of the Terms of Use was a collaborative process that lasted over 120 days and involved more than 200 edits and translations into more than 20 languages.

Wikimedia can close or block a user’s account at any time. This is probably reasonable given the potential for abuse of the service. We would prefer, however, for it to limit its right to terminate to cases where a user has breached the Terms of Use.

SCORE: 19 / 25
  • Public consultation for changes to the terms
  • Wikipedia can terminate your account whenever it wants


One point that may not be understood by novice Wikipedia users is that if you’re editing a Wikipedia entry and you’re not logged in, your IP address is stored and permanently credited with the edit. It may be possible to identify you from your IP address. If you do not want to be identified as the author of any edits you make, you should create an account and log in prior to editing.

SCORE: 20 / 25