The Workings of Privacy in Wikipedia

Date: September 25, 2015 (Friday)

Time: 12:30pm-1:30pm

Venue: Room 723, 7/F, Cheng Yu Tung Tower, HKU

Speaker: Dr Shun-Ling Chen, Assistant Research Professor, Institutum Iurisprudentiae, Academia Sinica, Taiwan

Abstract: Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia that anyone can edit – begun in 2001, it is now one of the most-visited websites in the world. Wikipedia is built by users around the world. User contributions are individually logged, and the logs reveal certain information about each editor. How personal information is collected, stored and used is of particular importance to the Wikipedia community. Firstly, Wikipedia’s openness is prone to abuse. A carefully guarded access to editors’ private information is essential for internal governance. Secondly, outsiders – governments, businesses or individuals – may wish to influence Wikipedia content, sometimes by suing its editors. Since editing may be done pseudonymously, the access to editor’s private information is also essential to the project’s integrity. Recently, the Wikimedia Foundation started to encrypt all connections for Wikipedia and its sister projects. This technical change not only gives readers greater privacy in accessing information but also makes it harder for governments like China and Russia to censor targeted content.

This talk will address why privacy is one of the most important principles behind Wikipedia, and discuss the relevant governance mechanisms and legal strategies developed by its community.


Dr. Shun-Ling Chen is an assistant research professor at the Institutum Iurisprudentiae, Academia Sinica (Taipei, Taiwan). She received her S.J.D. from Harvard Law School in 2013, and then spent a year at at the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law as a visiting assistant professor. She works in fields where society, information technologies and the legal system intersect. In particular, she is interested in the allocation of resources related to intellectual property laws. She spent years studying the development and enforcement of communal norms in on-line peer-production communities, as well as how these communities negotiate externally with established institutions.

Her publications include: Exposing Professionalism in U.S. Copyright law: The Disenfranchised Lay Public in a Semiotic Democracy (2015, University of San Francisco Law Review), Collaborative Authorship: From Folklore to the Wikiborg (2011, University of Illinois Journal of Law, Technology and Policy), The Wikimedia Foundation and the Self-governing Wikipedia Community – A Dynamic Relationship under Constant Negotiation (2011, in Geert Lovink et at eds, Critical Point of View: A Reader, Institute of Network Culture, at 351-69).