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Terms & Conditions: Reddit revamps with privacy in mind

Terms & Conditions: Reddit

It’s been a rough few weeks for social news giant Reddit. Thanks to some overzealous amateur detectives on the site, the Conde Nast-owned Web giant came under fire during the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings. Innocent people were painted as “potential suspects.” The facts were skewed. And the media attacked some redditors for their irresponsible exposure of others pictures and personal information. It’s fitting, then, that Reddit’s staff would release an all-new privacy policy, which is set to go into effect on May 15.

True to Reddit’s form, the privacy policy was posted to the site, where users were able to parse through the text, and to ask questions of attorney Lauren Gelman, who helped craft the document, as well as Reddit admins, who explained the technical side of site privacy in detail. Rather than force you to read through both the policy (which is relatively short) and the nearly 2,000 comments about it, I’ve summed up the most important bits below.

See the T&C review of Reddit’s User Agreement here.

Privacy Policy

Thorough yet easy to read, Reddit’s new privacy policy is a shining example of what these documents should look like. As site admin Jason Harvey (a.k.a. alienth) explains, the old privacy policy simply failed to “give a clear picture on how we actually approach user privacy.” The new document does nearly all that can be done to correct that. Let’s take a look.

Reddit, almost

The first important thing to remember is that this privacy policy only applies to Reddit.com. Other Reddit properties, like RedditGifts, and “loosely affiliated” services, like Radio Reddit, “have their own terms, and you should review them on each service’s respective website,” the policy reads. Indeed.

You are not for sale

For anyone who uses Reddit regularly, this should come as no surprise: Reddit does “not sell or profit from the information you share” with the company, says the policy. This is repeated later in the document, which says that “your private information is never for sale.”

“This means that we will only share your personal data with your consent, and after letting you know what information will be shared and with whom, unless it is otherwise permitted in this policy,” it continues. “While advertisers may target their ads to the topic of a given subreddit, we do not sell or otherwise give access to any information collected about our users to any third party.”

That is about as cut-and-dry as you can get with this kind of thing, and I’m glad to see that Reddit has decided to go with unequivocal commitments of respect for users’ personal data.

The only time that Reddit will share personal information is with law enforcement, when required to do so by law. So don’t go admitting to murder or anything idiotic like that.

Edit, don’t just delete

While it’s great that Reddit itself protects the private information you hand over to the company – which only includes username, password, the IP address of the computer on which you created the account, and your email address, if you choose to provide it – the biggest privacy problems may be entirely your fault. Reddit is, after all, a very popular public website – so if you leave a comment that includes some info you’d rather the whole world not know, bad things can happen.

Fortunately, Reddit allows users to both edit and delete comments. While deletion removes the comment from public view, editing is actually the best way to ensure that info you want to keep to yourself covered. Why? I’ll let Harvey explain:

“We will still have access to a deleted comment,” he writes. “So, yes, if you’d like to ensure that something is completely removed, editing would accomplish that.”

Now, things get a bit complicated due to the fact that third parties, like the Uneddit Reddit browser extension, can archive versions of Reddit comment threads that let people see what you said before you edited a comment. Reddit does what it can to block such apps – Uneddit Reddit was kicked off the Google Chrome app store – it has not yet blocked them all.

So, as always, the best bet is to never post information that reveals your true identity on Reddit – not even once.

Who wants a cookie?

Reddit uses three types of cookies: preference cookies, which remember things like if you want to view age-restricted content even when you’re logged out; authentication cookies, which allow you to log in to the site; advertising cookies, which are placed on your machine by Reddit’s advertising partner, Adzerk (see Adzerk’s privacy policy here); and analytics cookies, placed by Google Analytics, which Reddit uses to gauge traffic to the site.

You can block all cookies, if you like. But Reddit warns that “portions of the reddit website may not function as intended.”

Delete me, bro

Deleting your account on Reddit is easy – and once you do so, “your public profile is no longer visible to users of the site,” says Reddit. Your username will remain unusable by other visitors (in case you’re worried about someone taking over your identity). And your username will be “disassociated with all posts.”

That said, deleting your account does not delete all your posts (“self-posts,” comments and submitted links). According to Harvey, Reddit staffers “want to give people who are deleting their accounts a way to also delete the content that they want to.” However, there are “technical limitations” that currently stand in the way.

No kids allowed

For old timey redactors like myself, the site seems like it’s been overrun by teenagers – with all their silly memes and high school problems and acronyms that we have to Google to understand. Luckily, Reddit complies with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), and prohibits anyone under the age of 14 from using the site. Reddit asks that you report anyone 13 or younger, so they can kick them out. (Please do!)