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  Post #1 (permalink)   03-08-2007, 02:26 AM
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This is a controvertial subject and many people have argued over it, but it still remains a controversy.

Take for example a forum where admin has some modification which allows them to read PMs, even though admin may not use this routinely except certain situations, will this amount to intruding privacy of members?

Certain situations could be any of these :-
1) Complaints about a member spamming or advertising to other members
2) Suspicion of a rival host wooing away custoemrs through PM offers
3) Suspicion of conspiracy
4) Any other similar situation

One school of thought argues that admin always had access to db and since messages are readable through db, irrespective of whether admin uses modificatino or not, such an attempt is not questionable, after all forum owner has right to protect his forum, himself and members.

Another school of thought argues this to be an intrusion into privacy because members using PM were not aware of this and if admin is to use any such thing, it must be documented.

This suggestion is argued against by people that unless done in a politely and in a well worded documentation, it will mslead members into thinking that they are being spied upon. Moreover such a documentation is not required because it is clearly readable through database. Also, if any one wants to get invovled into private conversation, there are other channels available, like telephone (big brothers can tap that too. ) or post cards.

What is your view on this?
 
 
 


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  Post #2 (permalink)   03-08-2007, 07:23 AM
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My view is that it is never an acceptable practice to read PMs of any member.
If there are issues with spam or client poaching then the offended party can forward the email to the admins.
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  Post #3 (permalink)   03-08-2007, 12:42 PM
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Quote:
If there are issues with spam or client poaching then the offended party can forward the email to the admins.
Who's to say the forwarded PM is not faked?
 
 
 


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  Post #4 (permalink)   03-08-2007, 05:16 PM
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That is the risk you would have to take.
Obviously I wouldn't suspend accounts based on a single complaint, but the alternative is unacceptable in my opinion.
An administrator should never access private messages of forum members.
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  Post #5 (permalink)   03-08-2007, 05:39 PM
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My position is this. If a company/person who is owner of a forum is able or going to access Private Messages, such practice shall be made public within site's Terms. Personally, I think its a little over the top to be accessing private communications. However, a forum is private property and the rules can serve to protect the wants and needs of its owner. If one wants to venture in such procedure, users of the forum need to know about it beforehand.

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  Post #6 (permalink)   03-08-2007, 07:47 PM
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"He PMed me this" reports are not always easy to solve.

Quote:
Obviously I wouldn't suspend accounts based on a single complaint
Some moderation systems use warnings, and question comes: do you issue/maintain the warning or not, when the proof is contested, and all you have is 1 member acusing another member of doing/sending something via PM. And that other member fervently denies doing anything of the sort. What's the right course of action then?

I guess the admin could ask for permission to look into the member's PMs archive... maybe that would be fair enough.

Quote:
If a company/person who is owner of a forum is able or going to access Private Messages
Anyone with access to the database is theoretically able to do that.
 
 
 


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  Post #7 (permalink)   03-09-2007, 07:46 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ldcdc
Anyone with access to the database is theoretically able to do that.
Certainly, but not by default though. And bandboy mentioned that some companies might write a special admin mod for them to access PMs.
 
 
 


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  Post #8 (permalink)   03-09-2007, 07:04 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Artashes
Certainly, but not by default though. And bandboy mentioned that some companies might write a special admin mod for them to access PMs.
Exactly thats my point. This becomes more important because of existing US laws for privacy or do they not apply in this case?
 
 
 


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  Post #9 (permalink)   03-09-2007, 08:13 PM
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I don't think US privacy laws cover an open forum with a TOS.
If a forum states in a TOS that they reserve the right to read private messages, and the person agrees to those terms when they sign up, as is the norm, then privacy laws don't apply. The person is waiving their right to such privacy.

My point is that it is still unethical regardless of legal issues to read private messages.
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  Post #10 (permalink)   03-09-2007, 11:50 PM
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I honestly think reading PM's isn't a bad thing. I have that set on one of my forums, because it got to one point where users would join, spam via PM their site and leave. I DON'T look through each PM sent. I absically put a search in which checks for urls or any signs of them.

My TOS and Privacy statement also says, our admins ARE allowed to read your PM's and that by you signing up, are allowing us to check through your PM's.

As long as the admin keeps it between himself and the user, I think it's fine and not illegal. If you have a problem, read the Privacy statements always and if you don't like having your PM's read, then just don't register. Simple as that!
 
 
 


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  Post #11 (permalink)   03-10-2007, 04:55 PM
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Which is exactly why I would never register at your forum, or any other forum with a similar policy.
I fail to see your justification. To me it is nothing more than voyeurism. You have no legitimate need to read PMs.
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  Post #12 (permalink)   03-10-2007, 05:43 PM
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Quote:
You have no legitimate need to read PMs.
I tend to disagree with this. There are times when taking a look can be necessary. However, doing so without permission from the member, is a definite no-no. If there's nothing to hide, the request to do a check can only be met by a positive reply.
 
 
 


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  Post #13 (permalink)   03-11-2007, 01:00 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Blue
Which is exactly why I would never register at your forum, or any other forum with a similar policy.
I fail to see your justification. To me it is nothing more than voyeurism. You have no legitimate need to read PMs.
Well that's fine with me

MANY people don't really care, unless you have something to hide in your PM's? Do you spam boards Blue? If your not doing anything illegal, then why are you scared?

I mean FBI, other intelligence spy on you all the time. Your phones calls are heard, you might be watched on a satelite.. who knows...

Bottom line is various people have their own reasons for it. Mines is simply people who come by and spam via PM. There is no way to tell WHO did it, untill one of your members tells you about it. By then, the spamer could have spamed over 100 members. I've only implemented it for safety of the forums. Like I said, I DON'T read anything, unless the search pulls up a link and is sent to more then 5+ people.

BTW, not many people read the Privacy and TOS agreements, which isn't really my fault or anyone elses. Always read the agreements, even if your posting at a forum.
 
 
 


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  Post #14 (permalink)   03-11-2007, 12:42 PM
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No, I do not spam boards. Nor am I "scared" of anyone looking at my PMs.
You seem to have no respect for your membership. My problem is with people like you who decide that it is OK to arbitrarily make the decision that is if fine to read private messages on forums you run.
Forums memberships are always self policing. If people are getting spammed they will bring it up with forum management and it will get dealt with.
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  Post #15 (permalink)   03-11-2007, 01:31 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Blue
No, I do not spam boards. Nor am I "scared" of anyone looking at my PMs.
You seem to have no respect for your membership. My problem is with people like you who decide that it is OK to arbitrarily make the decision that is if fine to read private messages on forums you run.
Forums memberships are always self policing. If people are getting spammed they will bring it up with forum management and it will get dealt with.
Lets post here without use of word 'you' or 'yours', so that we all can feel its not going personal any time.

I am interpretting forum policies as they exist on a regular forum or lets say default installation of most of the forum scripts.

Almost all forums are subject to monitoring by staff and unwanted or useless posts removed by them. When you post in a forum, you are posting a message but that message is visible to all who have permissions to read it. When you use PM system, you are doing same thing. You are making a post but this post is visible to particular member only under normal circumstance.

Staff has a job to do and that is to scan forum posts for illegal stuff or any thing against forum policies. Same goes for PM messages. I am not labelling it as allowed or 'not allowed' thats what we all are discussing here, but take for example this situation :-

Member 'A' has befriended member 'B' in your forum and they both interact with each other. Lets say member 'A' one fine day sent message that he will kill member 'C' but member 'B' did not check in the forums and a couple of days later member 'C' is found dead. Investigations lead agents to your forum. Keep other things aside, but if you had read such a message, member 'C' could have been alive. You may escape this by saying that you never read messages but then from your heart you know, atleast an attempt could have been made if you were following messages. Now it sems pretty extended situatino but then it is an example. Could be extended to terrorists, extortionists and so on.

Another situation where member 'A' is new and joins your hosting forum. He starts sending PMs to existing members, inviting them to his own hosting company with offers that are appealing. Member 'A' is clever and does it in a way that recipient doesn't complain if not interested, but usually find offers appealing. So, he is using your forum, your respurces and your databse to get clients for his business, which infact is your competition. What then?


Third situation is that some one in your staff is a mole who is though being paid by you, but is actually working for your rivals. Like any time a member sends them message for help or any offers, they preach other hosting firm or lets say leak your upcoming offers to rivals. may be they were devoted and sincere for your firm when appointed but some rival visits your forum and behaves as a normal member and is rather trying to woo away your staff or playing tricks. How will you know about this? There is no way to know about it if it were happening on a platform other than forum, but if it were through forum resources, you'd be pulling your hair.

I am not advocating reading messages for those who use it to blackmail or may be do it with voyeur tendency, but then there are genuine reasons as well.
 
 
 
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