Just when you thought that the nerdy know-it-alls who run Wikipedia couldn't get much creepier, it was revealed yesterday (December 10, 2013) that Wikipedia contributors who voted in the recent "Arbitration Committee" election will have their IP address, their browser configuration, and even their living arrangements investigated by mysterious Wikipedia insiders called "scrutineers". The Arbitration Committee (or, "ArbCom") is the highest community-elected authority on Wikipedia, just below the knowledge poobah and co-founder, Jimmy Wales. The revelation that contributor-voters would come under the lens of these scrutineers was offered matter-of-factly by an ArbCom member "Risker", otherwise known in real life as Canadian hospital risk management professional, Anne Clin. She announced that scrutineers will:
...look for same/similar IP and user agent combos (there are bound to be some) and then review the users to see if they are likely socks or are two people who reside together (there will be some of them, too).
We knew that Wikipedia invades the privacy of those unfortunate souls saddled with a biography on the ever-changing encyclopedia site, but it came as a bit of a surprise to some ArbCom voters that vaguely-identified individuals would now be checking to see if they lived alone or if they lived with another Wikipedia contributor. One voter, Wikipedia administrator and organic horticulturalist, "SB Johnny" said:
Just to clarify: are you saying that everyone who votes in Arbcom elections is scrutinized using checkuser as a matter of course? If so, was that made clear somewhere?
Another Wikipedian going by the name "SandyGeorgia" added, "No kidding. That'll teach me not to log in to vote while I'm at the hair salon."
As usual, there is an angle of hypocrisy to report on this latest of Wikipedia snafus. As recently as three days ago, Jimmy Wales was wringing his hands, that the Wikipedia community and his "non-profit" Wikimedia Foundation really ought to come together in protest to "do something about the surveillance state situation", referring to the months-long controversies over NSA surveillance of American citizens and foreign leaders. Yet right under Jimbo's nose, various appointed "scrutineers" are using the pretense of an election to use computer data to check up on the living arrangements of their fellow Wikipedia editors.
Disclosure: Anne Clin who was mentioned in this article was the administrator who blocked the author, Gregory Kohs, from participating on Wikipedia in 2009. Regardless of the potential conflict this may present, the reporter bears no grudge or ill will toward Clin. Indeed, thanks to Clin, he feels liberated from having to work on Wikipedia under a disclosed account.