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Wikimedia Foundation signs letter requesting more transparency from NSA on PRISM

A few weeks ago, the Wikimedia Foundation’s legal team published a blog post about the PRISM surveillance program. In particular, we made clear that the Foundation does not participate in PRISM, and that we wanted Wikimedia community feedback on what next steps you felt we should take. This post is an update for the broader community on that discussion and where we plan to go from here.

Key Issues

Several themes came up in the discussion–through blog post comments, Wikimedia-l emails, and on wiki–including:

  • Privacy: It was clear that Wikimedians are concerned about their privacy, both when editing and when reading. This was expressed in a variety of ways, including support for actions related to PRISM and calls for technology-focused privacy improvements.
  • Trust: At least some Wikimedians were concerned that the Foundation might be legally required to conceal information from the community (for example).

  • International: Some Wikimedians were concerned about taking positions that advocated for the rights of American citizens, but not the rest of the world.

The Foundation shares all of these these concerns and we are using them to guide our response.

Engaging on Trust and Transparency

One of the key themes raised was trust. This is particularly important for the Foundation, because we strongly feel the community must be able to trust us when we talk about this issue (or any other). To help directly address this, the Foundation has today signed on to a letter organized by the Center for Democracy and Technology.

The letter requests that the US government formally allow companies subject to US law to be transparent about the number of requests for information that we receive. As we’ve previously stated, the Foundation has not received any requests to date, but we want the community to be better able to trust us when we say that, and we want the US government to make it clear that it is legal for us to share accurate information.

We also feel that the community and Foundation should have more information about PRISM and related spying programs, so that we can all decide what what next steps (if any) are appropriate for us to take. This letter partially addresses that issue by asking that the government share more information about the scope and size of these programs.

For more details about this letter, you can read the coverage at the Washington Post and the New York Times.

Next Steps

The Foundation will continue to monitor the PRISM situation, and will update the community when we hear significant news that directly impacts us. We will also consider taking action if we see opportunities that are consistent with the community’s mission and vision, and consistent with the themes and concerns raised during the community consultation.

The community can of course also get involved. Options for this sort of thing include:

Luis Villa
Deputy General Counsel, Wikimedia Foundation

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