[Bionews] How does public Bionet impact personal privacy?

BIOSCI Administrator biosci at net.bio.net
Thu Jun 22 18:15:04 EST 2006

Dear Bionet readers,

How does public Bionet impact personal privacy?
See http://www.bio.net/docs/biosci.FAQ.html#q33

BIOSCI/Bionet reflects and facilitates the science community's passion
for public discourse to arrive at truths in an open manner that all
can see and review. You should use Bionet in this spirit, and be
prepared to share your views, questions and answers in a publicly
visible manner.  While anonymous postings are not discarded out of
hand, moderators and readers expect some knowledge of the author to
understand the import of your message.  As a discussion or question
asker, you should be prepared to provide knowledge of who you are. 
This is in line with general Usenet established practice.  One can
learn more about Usenet accepted usage at links in

Bionet news and discussion has been archived for public use since its
inception in the 1980s, with archives available for rereading and
searching via the Internet search engines, Yahoo, Google, and others. 
The Bionet archives provide important references to science
discussions and knowledge to many scientists and lay people.

Those who read and respond to your discussion have expectations of
knowing who they are interacting with. Personal privacy on the Internet
is a growing issue for many, as discussed here among other places:

  "The fact that opinions shared in Usenet newsgroups are ... like little
  bylined editorials published in one of the most widely read newspapers
  on Earth, is not news."
  Your Thoughts: A Permanent Public Record, Wired, 1998
  "... privacy discourages information sharing between individuals which
  in turn can lead to mistrust and intolerance amongst people and
  perpetuate false information. If information can be shared widely then
  facts can generally be verified through many different sources and
  there are less chances of inaccuracies." 
  "* The major issue is that of credibility. The other readers will
  probably take you more seriously and it is easier to build a genuine
  reputation around a true identity. Anonymous postings are ignored more
  readily than overt ones.
  * Asking for help and advice on the Usenet? You'll get it more readily
  if the readers know who is asking."
  Anonymous Usenet posting, http://lipas.uwasa.fi/~ts/http/anonpost.html

Bionet and other Usenet groups are archived at various placed around
the 'Net, including Google.  One needs to understand from the nature
of Bionet, Usenet and public science discussions that personal privacy
can be at odds with use of these public discussion groups.

As Google and the related search engines have become a common tool to
discover the Internet presence of people, usually for various good
uses, some of Bionet's contributors who did not fully understand these
issues request editing and removal of posts from the public archives. 
The Bionet staff will accept such requests (see email address below),
and are understanding of the importance of personal privacy issues. 
We cannot however promise to act on such requests, due to both the
public policy that is an integral part of Bionet and Usenet, and
limited resources to manage such requests. We ask that requestors have
an understanding and accept that this public policy is a long standing
part of science discourse and Bionet.

As noted in the first FAQ item, Bionet is for biology science
discussion.  Personal issues including requests for medical advice,
legal advice, and such are not desired topics, and are among those
where personal privacy is likely to become important to the requestor.
Caveat emptor, you should be aware before you make use of Bionet
groups whether your questions are suited to a public forum.

Regards, Don Gilbert
Biology Dept., Indiana University
BIOSCI help mail:  biosci-help @ net.bio.net

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