Fighting for freerecyling

My final word on finder?

To quote Deron, ” We are *not* using the finder addy to reproduce any Yahoo content on our site so there is no need to remove finder from any local groups.”  The question one should ask is what exactly WAS finder doing?

Finder was being used to collect centrally data from each and every TFN group, and with the launch of the new website this became a critical issue in that any group that did not include finder was not allowed to be part of TFN anymore.  What Yahoo were saying is that in order to collect that data with the consequent possibility or reality of publishing that data then that would be in breach of Yahoo’s Terms and Conditions.

Just make sure you understand this right.  As a member you sign up to a particular group.  When belonging to that group you accept as part of the requirement to join, as defined in Yahoo’s terms and conditions, that any data you post is shared within the group.  Since ALL TFN (and non-TFN) groups by definition do not expose their email archives then the exposure is limited to other members in the group.  Explicitly or implicitly this may include, as well as the items you are offering or collecting, your personal data such as:

  • name (and nick-names),
  • email address,
  • yahoo id,
  • IP address,
  • time of posting,
  • location of your home probably down to zip cod /postcode (or even directions and/or full address if you inadvertently post those)
  • and telephone number (if you inadvertently post that as well)

Exposing anything on the Internet is a risky business, and one that anyone should not take lightly.  Note that many free recycling people are new to the Internet – these are at least one group of people that freecycling attracts.  People who are fresh to the Internet are unlikely to be skilled at hiding key information.  By joining a Yahoo Group you sign up to sharing some or all of the above data to anyone in the group.   And providing you are careful then that is generally considered acceptable.

What you never signed up to was some other person or company that is OUTSIDE the group harvesting your information.   You never signed up to this because there is nothing in the Yahoo TOS to support this kind of question, nor is there anything on the TFN website to support this kind of question.

Now, there is a subtle point coming, so read carefully.   Assuming TFN and all its groups (including owners, moderators AND members) were wholly AND properly owned, with formal contracts, and just for the sake of argument lets also assume that everyone is an employee.  In that case your company employment contract would mean that they could harvest your data for whatever purpose.

But you do not have a contract.  You do not have a contract with TFN if you are an owner.  You do not have a contract with TFN if you are a moderator.  You do not have a contract with TFN if you are a member.

The only thing(s) that join you to TFN are tenuous things like the name of the group, being listed on the TFN website, TFN information on the group’s home page.  I say tenuous since all these can be changed in an instant, by either owners of groups, or TFN.  For example, TFN have “delisted” groups and other groups have change their names.  All done in an instant.

So the reality is that each and every group, owner and moderator has such a loose connection with TFN that the best definition of that relationship is purely voluntary.

If, then it is a voluntary relationship with no contracts that in itself does not in any way give TFN any rights at all to collect your data.  But that is what finder was doing.

And now to the subtle point and sorry for taking so long to get there.   Yahoo describe in the TOS that any collected data cannot be published on the Internet.  They say that because that is manifestly something easy for them and anyone to see as evidence of abuse.  They do not want to go chasing into companies everywhere on the off-chance they are collecting data. In fact they probably cannot afford to investigate each and every company and individual.  So they limit themselves to what is easily seen on the Internet – other websites.

But anyone who understands Data Protection, it is all about collecting and storing other people’s data on computers owned by a company, regardless of what they do with it.   And Yahoo simply use “website publishing” as an easy zero-cost implementation of the notions of personal Data Protection.

Richard Wallman understood that fine point.  Deron Beal did not.  That’s why Deron until the very end said finder was ok, and yet Richard did his due diligence of understanding the implications of collecting personal data and storing it on computers – without have the express permission of that person.

So it was Richard who set about killing finder off for good and let this sorry saga be a lesson to us all.

August 30, 2007 - Posted by | finder, freecycle

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