Wikipedia:Private correspondence

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Private correspondence, such as private e-mails, instant messages, or chats in private IRC channels, should not be posted on Wikipedia without the consent of writer(s). There is no hard-and-fast definition of "private" in this context, but the rule of thumb should be that correspondence is considered private when those engaged in it have a reasonable expectation of privacy, i.e.; communications not originally intended to be public. The posting of private correspondence on Wikipedia may be grounds for blocking or other sanctions.

Where posting e-mails or IRC chat is likely to stir up bad feeling, even if it is not considered private, editors are advised to consider the benefits of doing so, and to refrain if there are other ways of resolving the issue. When in doubt about whether material is private, editors should err on the side of caution and courtesy.

This policy does not forbid mentioning correspondence you have received without disclosing its actual content, but you should still use common sense in these cases.

E-mail[edit]

"Private e-mails" are e-mails between individuals; postings to closed mailing lists that have no public archive, and where invitations to join the list are not freely available and are tightly controlled; or any other common sense interpretation of "private." Non-private e-mails include messages to mailing lists with public archives, or lists that can be subscribed to by anyone.

IRC[edit]

IRC conversations are protected by this policy when conducted in unambiguously private channels. Non-private chat includes channels that can be joined by anyone; channels where invitations are freely available or are not tightly controlled; and channels for which public logs are available.

OTRS[edit]

In some cases (such as when responding to OTRS messages) it may be possible to discuss the existence and content of a private message without revealing the actual content, but this should be done with caution.

Confidentiality[edit]

Various mailing lists (or IRC channels, etc) may have their own confidentiality policy which will result in consequences (generally loss of access) if content is improperly disclosed. For private mailing lists that have official status with the Wikimedia Foundation (OTRS, Arbcom-l, and Checkuser-l in particular), the consequences for such improper disclosure may also extend to Wikipedia, providing for harsher on-wiki consequences than this policy does.

Arbitration[edit]

Where private correspondence is required as evidence in Arbitration, the original correspondents' consent should be obtained as a matter of courtesy and the correspondence e-mailed to the Arbitration Committee using E-mail address arbcom-l@lists.wikimedia.org. In certain egregious cases — for example, serious personal attacks, abuse of process, or threats to the project — consent of the correspondents need not be sought before the e-mail is forwarded to the Committee, but they should still be informed whenever reasonable.

Requests for Additional User Privileges[edit]

Where private correspondence is cited as evidence against an editor for additional user privileges (such as RfA, ARBcom Elections, or promotion to Bureaucrat), or the revocation of those privileges, the existence of such evidence should be first asserted without posting it. Only if the community demands evidence should the email contents be posted and then only after the original correspondents' consent has been requested as a matter of courtesy.

See also[edit]