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This article started as a result of some posts by Lauren Weinstein on Google+ touching on privacy.

A Model Site for Privacy

The site Stack Overflow is part of the Stack Exchange family of web sites. This is a site that I think really gets privacy correct and removes as many impediments as possible from users interacting with the site and other users of the site. Stack Overflow does not require an actual login to ask or respond to a question. If you do use a login mechanism then you get added benefits, but it is not a requirement. Stack Exchange also post a privacy policy that is easily reached, relatively easy to read and understand and that has an effective date associated with the policy. Moreover the policy also includes reference to a process that will be followed in event of a change to the privacy policy.

An example of Poor Privacy Implementation

Mashable is a popular website created by Internet celebrity Pete Cashmore. WikiPedia says that Mashable's"primary focus is social media news, ..."[ 1 ]. When an individual wants to share a news article from the Mashable site they are presented with the dialog below

Not only is Mashable requiring my Google+ login it wants access to the full social graph and it appears that it wants to spam them with a useless notification that I have logged into the site. Some of this can be overridden, but the defaults given are, in my opinion, dreadful. The dialog notes that acceptance is subject to privacy policies of Google and Mashable, but it is not possible to inspect either policy directly from this dialog. To view the Mashable privacy policy takes considerable perserverance, as I needed to scroll past at least a thousand cards of news articles to reach the page footer. This activity took more than one minute on my scroll wheel. When I finally got to access the footer, where the link to the privacy policy was I find that it is seriously out of date, perhaps as much as 2 years, as terms are outlined for sharing on Facebook and Twitter, but there is no reference to Google+, so I do not know why they want access to my social graph. It is noted that information they do obtain may be sold to 3rd parties as they see fit, with certain limitations.

I do hope that Mashable can be persuaded to update their privacy policy and to remove the objectionable requirements from participation with the site. I am somewhat picking on Mashable as this is the most egregious example of poor privacy implementation, especially for such a prominent web site. Also I hope that this prompts other sites to review their privacy policies and how they interact with the public.


  1. WikiPedia Mashable page - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mashable

Version: 10   Revised: 2013-07-02 15:16:52 Last Updated by: Show Links to Topic