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Old 17 Nov 2016, 01:08
Mark.B Mark.B is offline
Join Date: Feb 2004
Originally Posted by ProSportsForums View Post
You're getting into a semantics argument on the meaning of the term "private." Your average user is going to assume private means between only the parties specified. Courts are going to determine that interpretation as reasonable and customary.

That's a dangerous game I would not be willing to play.

I'm not saying you're wrong. Private messaging is the least secure form of communication next to public messaging on a forum. But the average user knows nothing or virtually nothing about how the information is stored.

Users have a reasonable expectation of privacy when the word "private" appears in the title of the feature or function being used.
Well as I said, on my site the term was changed to 'Personal Messaging" which better describes what it is.

A lot depends on the nature of the site. Sites like mine, that are at times contentious to many people, have a long history of being 'attacked' by people who use the PM system to spread lies and hate, and try to either entice members away to rival 'protest' boards, or simply try and frighten people into not posting any more. Often it's along the lines of "you don't want to be on this site, email me and I'll tell you more" followed by an email address. It's an attempt to disrupt and damage the site. And I am not paying out considerable sums of money to provide the means for lowlife types to attack me and then cite 'privacy' to prevent me stopping them! Therefore, if I suspect it's going on, I will go and look. The policy I linked to above makes that clear. I'm not interested in reading the regular's PMs and they know that, but they also need to understand that the ability is there should the need arise.

Obviously, this approach wouldn't suit every site. These days things are calmer and nobody really does the whole 'protest board' thing now, they just head off to Facebook. For the past few years I just set new registrations so they don't get access to PMs at all...if they become a regular then they will gain access. Nobody needs to be joining a site and immediately sending PMs around the place, not on my site anyway. If they think it's of relevance they can post it in the forum.

It remains an eye-opener to many forum users to understand that anyone with access to the site's database can read PMs....just like that! Some site owners like to lie and pretend it can't be done without massive modifications etc, it can and it's extremely easy and anyone with anything genuinely confidential to say should never use any forum's PM system to say it. Send an encrypted email!
MARK.B (Member of the vB Support Team)
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