Re: WWW Bill Of Rights?

M. Hedlund (
Sun, 22 Jan 1995 00:24:48 +0100

At 1:31 AM 1/20/95, Daniel W. Connolly wrote:
>I just saw a headline about how Prodigy is announcing WWW access to
>their subscribers. [...] [T]he USENET rules and guidelines were
>written down and pretty widely agreed on. There is no such set of
>guidelines for the web, as far as I can tell.

I suspect it's a little late to establish a web-wide"charter" in the style
of newsgroups', especially one that would meet with wide agreement. The
audiences are also very different. Newsgroup charters try to regulate
postings to the group, which any user can easily make -- the charter speaks
to every user but the permanent lurker. On the web -- at least, for most
of the issues Dan raised, privacy, copyright, libel, citation -- most
provisions of a charter would address the provider, not the user. If a
"bill of rights" were to be written, it would probably serve better as a
"responsibilities of the provider" fyi, distributed with server software
and made available to all page authors.

>* How much "right to privacy" are users entitled to? [...] I think
>it's pretty widely agreed that keeping information like "Joe User
>accessed cindy.gif at 2:47pm on Jun 12, 1994" is a violation of Joe's

Two consenting processes, in the privacy of their own socket....? I think
sites distributing sexual material are much less likely to be the center of
a web/privacy blowup -- I see the real candidate as commercial sites,
collecting direct marketing information from web hits. (Possibly,
commercial sites selling sexual materials.....) Unfortunately, the set of
commercial interests rushing sites onto the web are the _least_ likely to
read or heed a "responsibilities" fyi.

>Is this Bill of Rights something that the IETF or the W3O should try
>to write up and maintain? (I hope nobody expects them to enforce
>it...) Do the documents concerning adding a host to the Internet,
>maintaining an FTP archive, and posting to Usenet cover all the
>issues, or are there some novel issues that should be hammered out and
>spelled out?

Yes, there are certainly novel issues. Yes, I would like to see the W3O or
the IETF (in that order) write up some guidelines for the use of log
information, practices of cross-referencing, and so on. I also hope no one
expects any enforcement of these rules, but I'd much rather have strongly
worded, unenforced suggestions than even one full-blown lawsuit. If the
former can stave off the latter, it'd be worth the effort.

M. Hedlund <>