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MagicalMystery's avatar

On websites (like Fluther but not nescessarily Fluther) do mods have access to read personal messages between participants?

Asked by MagicalMystery (900points) September 17th, 2010

I am wondering how much information about users is available to moderators on websites such as Fluther, but not nescessarily Fluther. Does it vary among sites? or do mods have access to reading all messages between people? or do they not have that available to them?

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20 Answers

Seek's avatar

I can’t speak for other sites, but very few Highest-Ups of the Fluther Gods have access to private PMs. Anyone can read non-private PMs.

Don’t worry though, the Gods have far too much to do to worry about stalking everyone’s private messages.

chels's avatar

On other websites? Not really sure. I think it depends on the website itself.

As for Fluther the only people who can read PMs are @augustlan, and probably @andrew and @ben.

All mods can read mod PMs, though.

Aesthetic_Mess's avatar

On Yahoo! Answers they don’t. On Answerbag I don’t believe they do. I don’t know about Funadvice though.

marinelife's avatar

As to technology, it would be there for moderators on other sites (you have been told about Fluther) to read PMs. It would depend on how it was designed.

janbb's avatar

On Fluther, only two people – I’ve been told – can read private PMs; Augustlan, the community manager, and Andrew. They will only access them if a problem has been reported such as stalking or harassment..

Dog's avatar

@janbb is correct in that those who have the ability to read a private pm on Fluther never do so unless there is an issue.

However I believe that there are five who do have the ability:
Andrew, Ben, Augustlan. Tim and Richard. Cameron may as well.

Again I want to stress that this is rarely done and always with good reason.

Regarding other sites I have no idea.

MrItty's avatar

People who have access to “private” information might have no actual online presence on the site. When I worked for a web development company, I was in charge of designing websites for our clients, some of which involved discussion boards, log in screens, etc. I had full and direct access to the database, even though I never had a front-door account to the actual product. I could have read any “private” message or looked at any username/email/password combination for any site user if I chose to.

robmandu's avatar

Unless you have some modicum of control over both the Send and Receive mechanisms, no electronic message is truly private. Someone like @MrItty on the operations side can see it.

That’s why Research in Motion was having all those problems with Saudi Arabia (and other countries). Their Blackberry smartphones have secure encryption end-to-end such that someone in the middle cannot open the communication and read it (or hear it). From the operations perspective, it’s all just the noise of encryption.

JilltheTooth's avatar

Hey, it’s the internet. Discretion is always the better part of valor online.

janbb's avatar

@JilltheTooth but not half as much fun!

JilltheTooth's avatar

@janbb : True. Too true…. * sigh *

wundayatta's avatar

Never assume anything is private on the internet. The best you can do is to encrypt your messages. The programs for any social networking site has to maintain the capability of viewing all the material on the site. In fact, I think they legally have to, in case the government wants to gain access to someone’s “private” content.

Never say anything you don’t want someone else to have access to over the internet. Whatever you put up there, be prepared for someone else to see it that you might not want to see it.

downtide's avatar

I don’t know how the law stands (maybe @andrew or @augustlan can clarify?) but pretty much every website for which I’ve read the terms of service, imply that any and all data posted by users (presumably including PMs) can be used and/or disclosed to law enforcement agencies for the purposes of criminal investigation. I would therefore assume that every site is obliged to make it possible for an authorised person to read them, even if in practise they don’t.

augustlan's avatar

I can only speak for Fluther, but I’m certain every site has the ability for at least one person to see private messages. Whether they use that ability, I have no clue.

Here, Fluther employees can see them, but in practice only Andrew or I ever look at them, and only if there is a reported problem. Mods (who are volunteers, not employees) can’t see them at all.

downtide's avatar

@augustlan do you have a legal responsibility to share the contents of PMs with law enforcement agencies, if asked to do so?

jrpowell's avatar

The messages are stored in a database. Anyone that has access to the database can read them.

YARNLADY's avatar

I’m sure that anything that is entered into the internet through any source can be accessed by anyone who is capable of hacking it. By hacking I mean the ability to find information through knowledge of the inner working of the source code or whatever the jargon is.

augustlan's avatar

@downtide I actually don’t know the answer to that. I’ll try to find out and report back.

ben's avatar

@downtide We will keep your data strictly private, unless we’re served with a subpoena from law enforcement, in which case we will comply and turn over any pertinent data they request, including PMs.

I believe this is the same will most internet sites.

Fwiw, this hasn’t happened yet.

downtide's avatar

@ben Thanks. I figured it would be the same here. Good to know.

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