Privacy policy/FAQ

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This FAQ is not part of the Privacy Policy. It is not even a legal document. We do hope, however, that you will find it helpful. Please note that in the event of any differences in meaning or interpretation between the original English version of this document and a translation, the original English version takes precedence. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Contents

What’s different about this Privacy Policy? Can I see older versions?

Like many organizations, we have grown and changed over the years, and we drafted this Privacy Policy in hopes that it would better reflect not only our current practices, but also where we hope to go in the future. Our goals were to make this Privacy Policy easy-to-read and transparent about the way we collect information and use it to better understand and improve the Wikimedia Sites for you.

If you are interested in reading any of our past Privacy Policies, we keep prior versions of our Privacy Policies accessible and in archives for your review. Since we maintain our Privacy Policy on a wiki, you can use the page’s history to compare revisions! Those with major revisions are from 2003, 2006, 2008.

What’s a “standard account” versus a “non-standard account”?

A standard account is one that you can sign up for to browse or edit the main Wikimedia projects like Wikipedia or Wikimedia Commons. Typically you do not need to provide more than a username and password to create a standard account with WMF; however, if you create a standard account using a system run by a third party, then you may be required to provide additional information, such as an email address. A non-standard account is one that you may sign up for to participate in the Wikimedia movement in a more in-depth way, outside of reading or contributing to one of our main projects like Wikipedia. For example, if you register for an account on Bugzilla, Gerrit, or OTRS or work on a special initiative like Global Education, you may be required to register for an account to participate and registration for those accounts may require additional information other than a username and password, such as email address.

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Can you give me some examples of types of cookies and how you use local storage?

Sure! The cookies (and related LocalStorage storage technology) used by the Wikimedia sites generally fall into the following categories:

  • Functionality: These cookies help the website work, including essential features like logging in.
  • Preferences: These cookies store your preferences, so that they can be remembered the next time you use the site.
  • Performance and Analysis: These cookies collect information about how you use our website, so that we can better understand how the website works and improve it for you and other users.
  • Third-Party: These cookies allow us to render services provided by third parties, such as “like” and “share” buttons. When a third party provides these kinds of services, they may require the use of a cookie in order to provide their services. (These would only be used with your affirmative consent.)

For more specific examples, we have provided the table below. But before you start reading, here is some background on Cookie Prefixes ("{$wgCookiePrefix}") you’ll find in the table.

Many of our sites are technically separate sites – for example, French Wikipedia is different from English Wikipedia, and both are separate from French Wikibooks. As a result, we may set different cookies for different sites. To help you (and your computer!) tell the sites apart, each site may set cookies that reflect their name. For example, enwikiUserName is a cookie that sets your username in “enwiki” - i.e., in English Wikipedia. frwikinewsUserName is a cookie that sets your usernamen in “frwikinews” - i.e., in French Wikinews. We could list 800+ versions of UserName (one for each language and project), but instead this table will just have one entry for “UserName” - {$wgCookiePrefix}UserName. Wherever you see {$wgCookiePrefix}, that means you'll get one copy of the cookie for each of our sites that you visit, and the name will be the “cookie prefix” (like enwiki, frwikinews, etc.) plus the rest of the name.

And now on to the table!

Name Expires Category What does it do?
centralauth_User 365 days, if the user chooses 'Keep me logged in'. Otherwise 30 days. Functionality Allows you to log in to many of the Wikimedia Projects using a single form, and stay logged in after providing your password.
CentralAuthAnon Either Local Storage, or a 1 day cookie Functionality Allows us to know that you are not currently logged in through our centralized account system.
centralauth_LoggedOut

LoggedOut

1 day from log out time Functionality Ensures recently logged out users do not see outdated cached content
centralauth_Session

{$wgCookiePrefix}Session

When user exits browser Functionality Manage sessions. Provides functionality such as logging in to Wikimedia Projects.
centralauth_Token

{$wgCookiePrefix}Token

365 days, if the user chooses 'Keep me logged in'. Otherwise omitted. Authentication Provides 'Keep me logged in' functionality.
centralnotice_bucket 7 days Performance and Analysis Helps us understand the effectiveness of notices provided to users through the CentralNotice extension. For more details, see https://www.mediawiki.org/wiki/Extension:CentralNotice
{$wgCookiePrefix}UserID, UserName 365 days, if the user chooses 'Keep me logged in'. Otherwise 30 days. Authentication Helps identify you to the wiki, and keeps you logged in.
{$wgCookiePrefix}forceHTTPS 30 days Functionality If you log in as https, and then later visit as http, this will cause you to redirect to https.
centralnotice_fundraising 1 year Functionality Allows us to stop showing banners to people once they’ve donated.
stopMobileRedirect 30 days Preferences Tells us not to redirect to the mobile site if you don't like that.
uls-preferences Local Storage, not a cookie Preferences Allows you to set preferences for the Universal Language Selector functionality.
langMap Local Storage, not a cookie Preferences Sets most highly prioritized languages for the language switcher on the mobile site.
mobile-betaoptin-token Local Storage, not a cookie Preferences Helps us to know on the mobile site if we've previously asked you to enroll in beta, so that we don't prompt you unnecessarily.
WMF-Last-Access 30 days Analytics Helps us calculate Unique devices accessing our site. See: https://blog.wikimedia.org/2016/03/30/unique-devices-dataset/
GeoIP Expires when user exits browser Functionality Helps us show you banners and other notices appropriate to your region, based on information from a GeoIP database
mwe-popups-enabled Local Storage, not a cookie Preferences Helps us to know if you have disabled Hovercards.
ext.popups.core.previewCount Local Storage, not a cookie Performance and Analysis Helps us understand the effectiveness of Hovercards.
hidewatchlistmessage-[watchlistMessageId]
  • where watchlistMessageId is the Id of the message being hidden
28 days Preferences Allows a user to hide a watchlist message.
  • this cookie is on Persian Wikipedia (fa.wikipedia.org)
{$wgCookiePrefix}BlockID up to 24 hours Functionality Helps us enforce autoblocks, a system used to prevent vandalism and disruption
loginnotify_prevlogins 180 days Authentication Verifies that you are logging in from a known device. This affects the threshold for how many unsuccessful login attempts trigger a notification to the user.
userFontSize Local Storage, not a cookie Preferences Keeps track of your preferred font size on the mobile site.
expandedSections Local Storage, not a cookie Preferences Keeps track of sections that are expanded on pages that you've viewed so that we can present a consistent view during your session.
preferredEditor Local Storage, not a cookie Preferences Keeps track of your preferred editor on the mobile site.

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What are some options I have to limit use of locally stored data on my device?

While this is not a comprehensive list, here are some of the things that you can do to limit use of locally stored data on your device. You can:

  • remove or disable specific locally stored data on your browser’s settings;
  • use a browser that can block third-party cookies; or
  • install a plug-in to block locally stored data, if one is available.

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How do I email within the Wikimedia Sites and how do I change what notifications I get?

You can change what notifications you receive by either:

(a) Clicking on the link after “To control which emails we send you, check your preferences” at the bottom of any notification email we send you as seen below; or
ENWP Welcome Email.png
(b) Sign into your account, then click on "Preferences" at the top right of your screen, and then click on "Notifications".
The "Preferences" tab
The "Notifications" tab

You also have the option of enabling the “Email this user” feature, which allows other users to email you directly by clicking "Email this user" in the Toolbox menu on your user page. If you enable this feature, your email address is not revealed when other users contact you. However, if you reply to a message from another user, or if you use the feature to email another user, your email address will be revealed to that user. If you enable this feature, any other user can email you and we do not control what or how often they email you. This is how you can enable this feature:

Sign into your account, click on "Preferences", then click on "User profile", and check the "Allow other users to email me" box.
The "User profile" tab
The "Enable email from other users" option


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Can you give me an example of how you use GPS and other location technologies to show me more relevant content?

Sure! If you are using the Wikipedia mobile application, you can find out if there are articles about places and things near you by using the "Nearby" button. Your device will ask your permission to identify and use your current location before actually using your location information. If you access this feature on your laptop, desktop, or device without a GPS, this feature will use your information from your browser to figure out your location and find articles about places and things (like public sculptures or famous buildings) near you.

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What do you mean you “infer my geographical location”? And why do you need to do that?

We use some downloaded products, like MaxMind’s GeoIP City DB, which allows us to internally determine the approximate location of our users. And when we say “approximate,” we mean it: the GeoIP City DB resolves your location at the center of the most precise area data associated with your IP. The only possibilities for associated area data are postal code, city, region, or country. Unless you are habitually positioned in the geographical middle of the most specific area associated with your IP address, the data we retrieve is unlikely to be good enough to have a sandwich delivered.

We do this so that you can be served with appropriate regional content such as local notices, event announcements, and local fundraising campaigns. To see what information we have on record for your IP address, you can load our GeoIP lookup tool at any time and check the result.

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What are some examples of when I would give you permission to share my information?

If you receive a scholarship to go to Wikimania, we may ask your permission to share your information with the local chapter hosting Wikimania that year so we can make appropriate travel arrangements. Or if you apply for a grant, we may ask your permission to share your information with members of the funds dissemination committee reviewing your grant application. Or you may want to use your Wikimedia username and password to log in and send information to a third-party site, using such services as OpenID or OAuth, in which case your information will only be sent to the third-party site with your explicit permission.

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What are some ways that you may share user information to investigate, enforce, or defend the Wikimedia Sites and policies?

It is important for us to be able to make sure everyone plays by the same rules, and sometimes that means we need to investigate and share specific users' information to ensure that they are.

For example, user information may be shared when a CheckUser is investigating abuse on a Project, such as suspected use of malicious “sockpuppets” (duplicate accounts), vandalism, harassment of other users, or disruptive behavior. If a user is found to be violating our Terms of Use or other relevant policy, the user’s personal information may be released to a service provider, carrier, or other third-party entity, for example, to assist in the targeting of IP blocks or to launch a complaint to the relevant Internet Service Provider.

As another example, if we are notified that a user has made a bomb threat, we may have to report some information related to that threat to local authorities to save lives.

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Can you give me some examples of when you would share my information with third-party providers?

Of course! For example, Wikimedia Sites rely on hosting providers, fiber-optic network providers, data centers, and other service providers and contractors. We have a contract with these service providers, and they only have data access to your data to perform services for us consistent with this policy. Other times, we may use third-party providers to help us manage the information we store or use. For example, we may use third-party grants management systems to hold grant applicant information and make our application process simpler and more efficient or we may use third-party providers for email services for staff.

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What information is revealed when I click a link on a Wikimedia site that takes me to an external third party site?

When you click a link on a Wikimedia site that sends you to an external website, the referrer information transmits only your domain origin, not the specific Wikimedia page visited, to that third party destination. For example, if you’re reading an article on Wikipedia and click on a citation that directs you to a news article on an external site, the referrer information contains only the Wikipedia domain, not the specific article URL. This type of referrer policy is known as “origin-when-cross-origin”. We limit referrer information in this way to protect user privacy, and avoid revealing sensitive information about the pages viewed by users, while allowing movement affiliates and partners to collect aggregate information on traffic received from Wikimedia operated websites. For those who would like to know more, and may be interested in having greater control over referrer information, the Wikimedia Foundation Security team has prepared a page on Meta with some further detail and recommended tools.

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What is the risk of re-identification?

In a few instances (not involving the Wikimedia Sites as far as we know!), independent researchers have been able to link non-personal and aggregate information from different sources to particular users. While we try to avoid this by seeking to anonymize information before sharing it for research purposes, we want to make you are aware of this risk.

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Does the Wikimedia Foundation use HTTPS on its sites?

Yes! In June 2015, we began the process of implementing HTTPS to encrypt all traffic on Wikimedia sites in order to protect your data’s integrity and security. We also began using HTTP Strict Transport Security (HSTS) to protect against efforts to ‘break’ HTTPS and intercept traffic. For added security, we recommend the HTTPS Everywhere tool. We're also working to enable https much more widely. To learn more about that, see our HTTPS status page.

What are some examples of how long you keep my data?

It depends on the type of data and how it was collected. For example, information that can be accessed by the CheckUser tool is deleted after three months. Other information, such as the IP addresses associated with contributions from unregistered users are visible in an article’s revision history indefinitely. You can learn more about how long we keep different types of data in our data retention guidelines.

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Is there a community body in charge of investigating alleged privacy violations?

A group of experienced users called the Ombudsman Commission has the power and authority to investigate violations and alleged violations of this Privacy Policy and make recommendations to us on how to address a violation or alleged violation.

There is outdated or inaccurate information about me on a Wikipedia article! How do I update my information?

The Wikimedia Projects are collaboratively written and driven by consensus. This means that information in Wikipedia articles is written, updated, and policed by a global community of users like you. If you are the subject of a Wikipedia article or are mentioned in a discussion page and believe that it contains inaccurate or outdated information about you, you must go through the user community’s content policies and procedures to address them. You can get help with this by emailing info@wikimedia.org. The Wikimedia Foundation does not get involved in content disputes and believes that working with the community is the best way to resolve potential disputes.

What are Do Not Track ("DNT") signals and how does the Wikimedia Foundation respond to them?

"Do Not Track" or "DNT" is a way for your web browser to tell the website you are visiting that you do not want to be be tracked by third parties whose websites you did not visit, like analytics services, advertising networks, and social platforms. When using this mechanism, a signal is sent by your browser, expressing your desire that your personal information, particularly about your online activities and network interactions, should not be passed on to third parties. When receiving a DNT signal sent to by your browser, the person or entity that owns the website has the option to either honor or ignore the above-mentioned request.

The Wikimedia Foundation is strongly committed to not sharing the information we collect from you (including your online activities and network interactions with Wikimedia Sites) with any third parties, except under the specific situations detailed in the "When May We Share Your Information" section of our Privacy Policy.

Because of this commitment, we protect everyone, and do not change our behavior in response to a web browser's DNT signal.

You can find more information about "Do Not Track" technology and policy proposal at Do Not Track Us, and the World Wide Web Consortium’s Do Not Track Specification.

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I thought I never needed an account to read or contribute! Under what circumstances would I need to register to read or contribute?

You never need an account to read a public Wikimedia Site. And in most cases, you don't need an account to contribute to a Wikimedia Site. However, there are a few rare instances where you will need to register an account if you want to contribute. A local community of editors or contributors (for example, the English Wikipedia community or the Malay Wiktionary community) or the Wikimedia Foundation itself may decide to place temporary or permanent restrictions on what you can change. For example, a specific page may be temporarily restricted from editing to allow only experienced or administrative users because of vandalism or copyright concerns. You may also not upload content such as images or videos without being logged in because we need to verify that proper permissions have been obtained from the copyright holder (if the media is not already in the public domain) in order to post the content.

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Can you give me some examples what kind of information is available through public logs?

Sure! Public logs may include when your account was created, when you deleted a page, or when you thanked another user. If you would like an example you can also browse through some of the public logs for this wiki at Special:Log.

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Can I delete and/or anonymize any content I post on any Wikimedia Site, if I don’t want to be personally identified? If so, how?

Think twice before you go public on our sites! Once you post information to Wikimedia Sites, it is public and you will likely not be able to permanently delete it. Even if you remove certain content (say from a Wikipedia article) yourself, it will still remain publicly available in the “view history” section of the article. Under certain circumstances, you may be able to request removal of a page or file or a part of the history of a page or file from public visibility (for example, if you accidentally post high-risk personal information like your credit card number). Please note that removal decisions (i.e. the deletion of a whole article) are not always made centrally, and sometimes they come after a public discussion amongst the Wikipedia community (see English Wikipedia’s deletion policy for further reference). This procedure does not ensure complete or comprehensive removal of the content or information posted on Wikimedia Sites.

You can also request suppression (oversight), in order to hide revisions, user names in edit histories and logs, or portions of individual log entries. Suppression is an on-wiki process that applies to specific uses. Please refer to the Meta page on suppression for further information and instructions.

If you are a registered user, we encourage you not to use your real name as your username if you do not want others to have a connection between what you post on the Wikimedia Sites and your real name. You can learn more about choosing your username in English Wikipedia’s Username Policy. Please note that this Username Policy is only applicable to English Wikipedia, and different Wikipedias have different policies. We recommend checking the username policy on the project you intend to use to be sure you are in compliance with local practice.

If you have already included personally identifying information (such as your real name) in your username and do not want to be personally identified with your contributions, we encourage you to request the anonymization of the information (instead of proceeding with the removal and suppression processes described above) by requesting a change of your username. You may request a change in your username by emailing privacy@wikimedia.org. There is also a list of local pages where requests for renames can be made that you can consult.

The anonymization process cannot ensure complete or comprehensive anonymization of all of the content or information posted on Wikimedia Sites related to your prior username. If your request is granted, the name change will only occur in automatically generated logs (such as page histories) in association with content that you posted. The name change will not delete mentions of your prior username by third parties. For example, if you changed your username from MichaelPaul to Owlwatcher345, the content you contributed will be attributed to Owlwatcher345, but if another user has mentioned you by the name MichaelPaul in a discussion page, MichaelPaul will continue to appear rather than Owlwatcher345.

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