Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Internet Privacy

I've learned that the delightful individual Daniel Brandt, Internet privacy advocate, has responded to my decision to step forward publicly about having been a target of Internet harassment by publishing the names of all my friends on Facebook. That just doesn't seem like the right thing for a privacy advocate to do.

After all, somebody (who is definitely not Mr. Brandt) has been e-mailing me for months telling me I'll get it when I least expect, and has written in vivid detail about how delighted that person would be to see acid splashed in my face, or if I were raped or killed.

I've never been anything other than courteous to Mr. Brandt. In fact, one year ago I did a real favor for him. He didn't like the fact that Wikipedia ran a biography of him and had been trying to get it taken down since 2005. Here's the first discussion. Now here's the 14th discussion, the one I nominated and the only one I participated in.

And here, in case somebody deletes the original, is the full text of my nomination:

Per changes at WP:BLP#BLP_deletion_standards, I request that the community expand the precedent of courtesy deletions to a slightly wider scope: these examples aren’t world leaders and both of them have expressed to me by e-mail that they would rather not be the subject of a Wikipedia article.

Bear in mind that some of the information Wikipedia publishes about these people comes from small presses and date from an era before either this site or the Internet existed. To paraphrase one appeal, the individual expected to wrap his fish in those papers the next day and certainly didn’t anticipate how those bits of information could be collected and assembled a few keystrokes away for anyone on the planet.

With respect for the editors who’ve contributed these pages, it’s always been my belief that ethical decisions where good people disagree should be placed in the hands of the people who live with the consequences. No one could have more at stake in this request than these articles’ subjects. We ask notable people not to edit their own articles; we insist that they don’t own the content and we stand by other site policies. On a human level – setting any personal antipathies aside – it’s fair that we extend one courtesy in return: although Wikipedia is not paper, some living people who began their careers in the era of paper publishing and prefer to lead relatively private lives.

I ask the community to replace these two pages with a template to the effect of “deleted per request of the article subject”, then Oversight the history and page protect, with equivalent action for the respective talk pages. I also ask we extend a similar courtesy in the future toward living persons who may be notable, but are neither celebrities nor criminals. DurovaCharge! 22:03, 9 June 2007 (UTC)

It's been a year and a day since I wrote those words. Daniel has spun some odd stories about that nomination, painting me as some kind of Machiavellian schemer, but that wasn't the case at all. And since I'm a rather nice person I let it go. Over on WikBack last winter I asked politely if maybe he could have misremembered the events a little bit, but he was unyielding. As I type this their forums are down, so I won't link there.

There's an interesting point: I nominated him under a principle I called the "dead trees standard." That means if the person isn't notable enough for an entry in any other encyclopedia--including specialty encyclopedias--then Wikipedia should extend a courtesy deletion upon receiving a request from the article's subject. I've nominated several other biographies for deletion for the same reason. Not only did Daniel Brandt accept that principle, he made it his rallying cry and offered to Wikipedia administrators who were on his "Hive Mind" page that he'd let them off if they pleged to raise the "dead trees standard" concept into formal policy in six months, or else quit Wikipedia. Daniel Brandt harvests information from his site visitors and a forum where he often posts has recently been hacked with a spyware script that attempts to take over a visitor's e-mail program. So I won't link to either of those places.

Here's how I proposed the courtesy deletion standard when I asked Wikipedia to delete Mr. Brandt's biography:

Actually I'm only proposing this option for living people who aren't famous enough to get coverage in traditional paper-and-ink encyclopedias. I consider that a fair exception to WP:NOT because Wikipedia is a new project and these people based reasonable expectations upon the limits of print media when they made disclosures about themselves. DurovaCharge! 01:12, 13 June 2007 (UTC)

But look at this. Yes indeed, there at entry number two under a Google Books search for Mr. Brandt's name is a book called Conspiracy Encyclopedia and it has an entry for Mr. Brandt himself on page 187.

DANIEL BRANDT b.1948 Researcher and webmaster Brandt has been at the forefront
of conspiracy research for decades and for the last 30 years has been ...

Yup, same guy. I've known about this for a while now although I hadn't pushed the point.

After 13 deletion attempts that kept Mr. Brandt's biography, he never actually qualified for the principle that finally got him what he wanted. The paper encyclopedia that lists him was published in 2005. And he goes out of his way to invade the privacy of the person who helped him protect his own privacy, and chooses the very moment when he discovers that I may actually be in real danger. Mr. Brandt is the man who founded Googlewatch, which makes it rather obvious that he knew about this all along.

And equally obvious that his ethics are somewhat...compromised?

On the principle that turnabout is fair play, I now give you the full unedited text of the most recent Internet Wayback Machine archive of Mr. Brandt's Wikipedia biography. This is raw wikimarkup, which is rough going, so readers may wish to peruse the more legible version in the link I've provided. I might dress this up if Mr. Brandt doesn't get my drift.

'''Daniel Leslie Brandt'' (born circa 1947) is an American book indexer based in San_Antonio,_Texas,Seelye, Katharine Q. (December_11 2005). A Little Sleuthing Unmasks Writer of Wikipedia Prank. ''New York Times'' and an activist Jesdanun, Anick (December_28 2005). NSA Web Site Puts 'Cookies' on Computers. ''Associated_Press''Goldenberg, Suzanne (December_30 2005) US intelligence service bugged website visitors despite ban. ''The Guardian''Velshi, Ali (December_29 2005). "New Information About NSA Domestic Spying Program Emerges", ''The_Situation_Room'', CNN on the World_Wide_Web, particularly in relation to Google Inc. and the Wikipedia encyclopedia project. Brandt's activism centers around demands for Accountability from organizations he believes are operating irresponsibly, or in an unnecessarily secretive manner. Thatcher, Gary (July_31 1989). Cloak-and-Dagger Database: Software Sniffs Out Secret Agents. ''The_Christian_Science_Monitor'' p. 8. In 1989, Brandt and Steve Badrich co-founded a Non-profit_organization called Public_Information_Research (PIR). Brandt launched Google_Watch in 2002, a Website stating his criticism of the Google search engine, and Wikipedia Watch in 2005, a similar site detailing his opinion that the Wikipedia encyclopedia lacks accountability and accuracy. ==Activism== ===Student activism=== Brandt was born in China to Missionary parents. Chasnoff, Brian (December_11 2005). S.A. man is chasing the secret authors of Wikipedia. ''San_Antonio_Express-News'' In his college years he was an anti-Vietnam_War activist while at the University_of_Southern_California (USC). According to the ''Daily_Trojan'', "Brandt was the editor and creator of ''Prevert'', a monthly student activist newspaper, and the ''De_facto'' leader of the student activist movement at this university in the late '60's." ''Daily Trojan'', January_12 1971. On October_4, 1968, he was one of three members of Students_for_a_Democratic_Society who burned what they said were their draft cards in front of television cameras following a speech by Senator Edmund_Muskie at USC. Kneeland, Douglas E. (October_5 1968). Muskie Urged Raid Halt; Muskie Confirms He Appealed To Johnson to Halt the Bombing. ''The_New_York_Times'' When Brandt's student deferment classification was withdrawn by the local Selective_Service_System in December 1968 due to his public non-cooperation with his draft board, Brandt was convicted of failure to report for a pre-induction physical exam and refusal to submit to induction. Brandt Appealed and his convictions were reversed on the grounds that he was entitled to student status as an Undergraduate at USC. ''United_States_v._Brandt'', 435 F.2d 324 (9th Cir. 1970). ===Political activism=== Brandt states that during the 1980s, when living in Arlington,_Virginia, he introduced a number of political activists and researchers to computing and how to work with databases, including former Central_Intelligence_Agency officers Philip_Agee Hand, Mark (January_3 2003). Searching for Daniel Brandt. ''CounterPunch'' and Ralph_McGehee, as well as John_F._Kennedy assassination researchers Bernard_Fensterwald and Mary_Ferrell. McCarthy, Jerry (January-March 1994). Mary Ferrell Profile. ''NameBase NewsLine'', cited on Spartacus Educational From the 1960s onwards, Brandt collected clippings and Citations pertaining to influential people and intelligence matters. In the 1980s, through his company Micro Associates, he sold a database of citations of these clippings, books, government reports, and other publications. He told the ''New_York_Times'' that "many of these sources are fairly obscure so it's a very effective way to retrieve information on U.S. intelligence that no one else indexes." Gerth, Jeff (October_6 1987). Washington Talk: The Study of Intelligence; Only Spies Can Find These Sources. ''New_York_Times'' These prior efforts were the basis of his NameBase website, described as "a quirky index of names cross-indexed," focusing on "foreign policy, spy, conspiracy, media, etc." Dedman, Bill (ed.). Power Reporting: Beat by beat: Military. via PowerReporting.com, accessed 19_April 2006. Currently the names are drawn from over 800 books, serials, and other publications. PIR website, "Why is namebase unique?" http://www.namebase.org/unique.html retrieved 15_April 2006. Between 1990 and 1992, three members of Brandt's PIR advisory board, including Chip_Berlet, resigned after complaining that another board member, L._Fletcher_Prouty, was openly working with and defending Liberty_Lobby and the Holocaust_denial group the Institute_for_Historical_Review, which republished Prouty's book ''The_Secret_Team''. Dan Brandt, "An Incorrect Political Memoir," ''Lobster'', No. 24 (December 1992); Chip Berlet, "Right Woos Left: Populist Party, LaRouchite, and Other Neo-fascist Overtures To Progressives, And Why They Must Be Rejected," Cambridge, MA: Political Research Associates, 1991.http://www.publiceye.org/rightwoo/rwooz9-23.html ===Online activism=== ====Government cookies==== In March_2002, Brandt was credited with finding persistent HTTP_cookies on one of the Central Intelligence Agency's websites that could be used to track users for approximately 10 years, in contravention of federal government rules. Associated Press (March_20 2002). CIA Caught Sneaking Cookies via ''CBS_News''Aftergood, Steven (March_19 2002). CIA cookies exposed and eliminated. ''Secrecy News'' On December_25 2005, Brandt found that the National_Security_Agency's website was using two HTTP cookies set to expire in 2035. Brandt contacted the NSA to remind them they were in violation of federal rules and the cookies were removed. The event gained worldwide publicity. ====Criticism of Google and Yahoo!==== {{main|Google Watch}} In 2002, Brandt launched the website Google_Watch through PIR, reportedly in response to Google's low ranking of deep content within NameBase.org, which is placed far below competing information. {{cite web |url= http://www.salon.com/tech/feature/2002/08/29/google_watch/ |title= Meet Mr. Anti-Google |author= |last= Manjoo |first= Farhad |date=2002-08-29 |work= Salon.com |archiveurl= http://web.archive.org/web/20050329091022/http://www.salon.com/tech/feature/2002/08/29/google_watch/ |archivedate=2005-03-09}} See Brandt's response at http://www.google-watch.org/gaming.html#case3. Google Watch documents Brandt's views on privacy, long-living HTTP cookies, and advertising policies within Google and Gmail. Brandt has also described the issue of "made for AdSense pages" — spam pages with content often scraped from other sites that sometimes enjoy high rankings in Search_engines due to sophisticated optimization technique. In addition, PIR has released Scroogle, a screen-scraping proxy that circumvents Google's tracking of user activity via HTTP cookies. Some writers have criticised the Google Watch website, such as writer Farhad_Manjoo, who stated: "... Daniel Brandt's arguments seem absurd. Because he has a personal stake in the squabble, he's pretty easy to dismiss: He doesn't like his Google rank, so it's not surprising he doesn't like Google." Brandt's PIR, in addition to other privacy and civil rights organisations including the Australian_Privacy_Foundation, Consumer_Federation_of_America, and Katherine_Albrecht's CASPIAN, have endorsed an open letter drafted by the Privacy_Rights_Clearinghouse and the World_Privacy_Forum requesting that Google suspend their Gmail service on account of privacy concerns, such as "the unlimited period for data retention that Google’s current policies allow." Privacy Rights Clearinghouse (April_19 2004). Thirty-One Privacy and Civil Liberties Organizations Urge Google to Suspend Gmail. via privacyrights.org Brandt also maintains an anti-Yahoo! website, Yahoo! Watch. His principal complaint is that the Yahoo! feature Site_Match embeds paid links into the main index and search results. ====Criticism of Wikipedia==== Brandt launched the Wikipedia Watch website through PIR on October_13, 2005, {{cite web | title = Alexa traffic details | url = http://www.alexa.com/data/details/?url=www.wikipedia-watch.org }} in response to a user authoring a biographical article on him within the Wikipedia peer-edited online encyclopaedia project. Brandt himself has been blocked from editing Wikipedia, Daniel Brandt Wikipedia userpage and Brandt has also published some logs from Wikipedia Internet_Relay_Chat channels on Wikipedia Watch. {{cite web | title = Wikipedia-Watch: The Wikipedia Hive Mind Chat Room | url = http://www.wikipedia-watch.org/findchat.html }} On the Wikipedia Watch website, Brandt advances his view that a website whose content is copied as widely as that of Wikipedia should have higher standards of accountability, and that members of the public who contribute or edit articles should make their identities public for this reason; this includes the facilitation of article subjects bringing litigation against editors, although since this multiple wikis now have articles about him. Brandt considers Wikipedia to be a privacy risk, and stated, "It [Wikipedia] needs to be watched closely." Brandt's view is that the creation of biographical articles on Wikipedia is broadly unacceptable due to the inaccuracy of information included and a lack of accountability. {{cite web | title = Public Information Research. Wikipedia Watch | url = http://wikipedia-watch.org | accessdate = April 2006 }} Since November_19, 2005, the Wikipedia Watch site has included a page stating personal details allegedly pertaining to individual Wikipedia editors and administrators who have edited Brandt's biography or responded to his complaints, to "discourage irresponsible editors from applying for adminship, and encourage others to be more considerate of those who would rather not have an article about themselves." Brandt states his reasoning of maintaining the list that, "if I ever decide that I have cause to sue, I'm not sure who should be sued." This is, according to Brandt, due to a lack of any party within the project claiming content responsibility. {{cite web | title = Wikipedia-Watch: The Wikipedia Hive Mind | url = http://www.wikipedia-watch.org/hivemind.html }} Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy_Wales responded to Brandt in a letter to ''Editor_&_Publisher'', stating, "I don't regard him as a valid source about anything at all, based on my interactions with him ... He considers the very existence of a Wikipedia article about him to be a privacy violation, despite being a public person. I find it hard to take him very seriously at all. He misrepresents everything about our procedures, claiming that we have a 'Secret_police' and so on."{{cite web | last = DeFoore | first = Jay | title = Wikipedia Founder, Readers Respond to Seigenthaler Article | publisher = Editor_&_Publisher | date = 2005-12-01 | url = http://www.editorandpublisher.com/eandp/article_brief/eandp/1/1001612839 }} ====Seigenthaler Wikipedia biography controversy==== {{main|John Seigenthaler Sr. Wikipedia biography controversy}} In May 2005, an anonymous editor added defamatory information to the John_Seigenthaler_Sr. Wikipedia biography. In December 2005, Seigenthaler criticized his Wikipedia biography in a ''USA_Today'' column that generated considerable publicity. {{cite web | last = Seigenthaler | first = John Sr. | authorlink = John Seigenthaler Sr. | title = A False Wikipedia 'biography' | publisher = USA_Today | date = 2005-11-29 | url = http://www.usatoday.com/news/opinion/editorials/2005-11-29-wikipedia-edit_x.htm }} Brandt found that the IP_address used by the editor was also used to host a website, with the text, "Welcome to Rush Delivery." Brandt contacted a company in Nashville, Tennessee known by that name, and the IP address on the email they sent back to Brandt matched that in the edit history of the Seigenthaler article. Within the week, Brian Chase, a manager at Rush Delivery, resigned and personally confessed to Seigenthaler. {{cite web | last = Terdiman | first = Daniel | title = In search of the Wikipedia prankster | publisher = CNET News.com | date = 2005-12-15 | url = http://news.com.com/In+search+of+the+Wikipedia+prankster/2008-1029_3-5995977.html?tag=st.num }} ==References== ''Note: Some external links to sites run by Brandt may redirect if the site detects a Referer from http://en.wikipedia.org/.''
== Bibliography == * "Google Libraries and Privacy" by Daniel Brandt, ''Web Pro News'', 1_December 2005 * "An Incorrect Political Memoir" by Daniel Brandt, ''Lobster'', December 1992 ==External links== {{wikiquote}} ===Sites run by Brandt=== * NameBase: http://www.namebase.org/ * Wikipedia Watch: http://www.wikipedia-watch.org/ * Google Watch: http://www.google-watch.org/ * CIA on Campus: http://www.cia-on-campus.org/ * Scroogle: http://www.scroogle.org/ ===Media coverage=== * "Conspiracy Researcher says Google's no good" by Farhad Manjoo, ''Salon.com'', 30_August 2002 with Brandt's response at http://www.google-watch.org/gaming.html#case3 (down the bottom) * "Paranoid or Prescient? Daniel Brandt is concerned about Google Print" by Jim Hedger, ''Concept'', 2003 * "Scraping Google to see what's happening" by John Battelle, ''Searchblog'', 11_January 2005 * "Anti-Google campaign by Lenz?" by Keith Oibermann, ''Blog news Channel'', 15_May 2005 * "What's in a Wiki?" by Philipp_Lenssen, ''Blog News Channel'', 30_October 2005 * "Who owns your Wikipedia bio?" by Andrew_Orlowski, ''The Register'', 6_December 2005 * "Caught red handed" ''Sydney Morning Herald'', 12_December 2005 {{Persondata |NAME=Brandt, Daniel Leslie |ALTERNATIVE NAMES= |SHORT DESCRIPTION=Activist |DATE OF BIRTH=1947 |PLACE OF BIRTH=China |DATE OF DEATH= |PLACE OF DEATH= }} Brandt, Daniel Brandt, Daniel Brandt, Daniel Brandt, Daniel Brandt, Daniel Brandt, Daniel Eo:Daniel_Brandt Fr:Daniel_Brandt He:דניאל_ברנדט Hu:Daniel_Brandt Pl:Daniel_Brandt

Mr. Brandt, my Facebook friends are none of your business. Take down your post about them. Take Hive Mind down. All of it. If you do so promptly I will take this post down and I will not campaign for the restoration of your Wikipedia biography.


Mike said...

There's a formatted version of his wiki article at: http://silenceisdefeat.org/~pir/

David Gerard said...

The problem is that Daniel Brandt is a sociopathic liar.

Moulton said...

"The problem is that Daniel Brandt is a sociopathic liar."

How do you know he isn't merely self-deluded?

Matthew Brown said...

Not being his doctor, I don't think any of us can diagnose him, or should. We can, however, describe his behavior, which has been reprehensible, and his arguments and positions, which have been, it seems, whatever gets him the results he wants, regardless of social norms.

Consistently he has taken steps to escalate conflicts. He would, I'm sure, argue that he was forced into it by the actions of others. To that I'd respond that one always has a choice whether to have principles and decency, regardless of the bad behavior of your opponents.

Durova said...

I don't recall him ever claiming that he was pushed into publishing anyone's Facebook friends list.