We asked if the fears were justified, here are the responses:
Tone Vays, Head of Research at BraveNewCoin:
“Sure, but all users are affected equally, I don't see why a bitcoin person is more affected then a person who just looks at cat pictures. The only story angle is that they can compile a list of Bitcoin users and perhaps identify them from the email and what they say. By the way, they have always been providing that info to government when asked to do so.”
He went further to say that “the only difference now is that they will have your email and your interests so they will sell your email to those who would be best to advertise to you, so if you always comment on Bitcoin they will sell your email to Bitcoin advertisers, but there are so few bitcoin advertisers”.
He believes that Bitcoiners and Hackers are the least affected by this privacy change:
“I'd say it's more people talking about Hair Products or Nutrition supplements as those communities probably trump Bitcoin users by volume comments and there will be more competition from advertisers to get hands on their email address (because that's all reddit has on their users).”
Tone concluded by insisting that it isn’t much about bitcoin as the bitcoiners have made it seem so far. “I'm really not sure where the bitcoin story is here.... it's a Reddit Story but centering this around Bitcoin is a stretch”.
“The policy change is not as black and white as the buzz on Reddit seems to indicate” was Aron’s opening statement. He made it clear that for those that wish to stay anonymous online, the most important step is not providing private information in the first place." Aron said: “If you supply your personal details to a website, online shop or an online community like Reddit, you run the risk of that information becoming available to others. The platform changing its terms and conditions is one way that can happen. Hackers attacking the platform is another way; data breaches happen every day.”
When asked if the time of notice was long enough, he stated:
“I think the given timeframe of 42 days between announcement of the new terms and conditions is short. Given the complexity of these things it takes time for skilled lawyers to interpret the pages of legalese and explain the consequences to laymans terms. That leaves little time for the complete Reddit user base to be informed and decide whether they agree with the new terms and conditions”.
Aron went further to say that the implications of such a move by Reddit could see a likely migration by some users to other platforms and communities, like was the case with the change of management towards the end of last year. He also stated that Reddit is a centralized platform and its owners can change the way that platform works within the legal boundaries that they operate in. He made clear that the idea that users have direct control over the Reddit platform isn’t true.
“To me this is a classic example of the limitations of centralized infrastructure and a strong case for decentralized systems. In a parallel universe where Reddit were a decentralized platform owned and governed by its users through smart contracts on a blockchain, top-down changes where users have no choice other than to accept or leave the platform would not be possible. I look forward to see decentralized online platforms flourish”.
What I’m surprised is why Reddit has changed their mind; isn’t there any other way to make money? As the last resort they can sell metadata - this is not quite “clean”, but this will not harm the users.”
George was of the opinion that this may lead to an exodus of the most marginal user segment, while others will not even notice.
On the line between sharing and selling data George said: “You do not need to “share the data” with anyone unless you want to monetise it. They would start making money on the user data to provide better targeting for advertisers.”
We asked George what possible dangers could arise from having user data shared with advertisers and he responds:
“There are several ways to share the data. If you do it securely (share metadata or the part of it) then it would not really harm the users. The main issue is that in case of customer data leak, fraudsters would not be able to reveal the real identities of the users.”
In any case of unsecure sharing, George was affirmative of the legal implications stating that in Europe there is a legal framework for privacy like “The Data Protection Act 1998” (DPA) in the UK and a set of standards set by ICO, so if anyone is operating private data they have the obligation to keep it in a secure way.
On a concluding note, when asked if this move by Reddit could have been part of its original plan, George said that he does not think that this was the plan from the beginning, but things change, management teams change as well.
Jani Valjavec, Co-Founder and CTO of Cashila:
“It is worrisome that personal information will be handed off in exchange for money. Bitcoin subreddit will be for sure rightfully loud about that. What Reddit should offer is to pay subscription in order to use Reddit without your information being leaked - and Bitcoin would be a perfect payment method for that.”