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How Wikimedia affiliates are spending $8.4 million; PRISM scandal

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By Tony1 and The ed17
Requests last October (red) and actual grants (green) in millions of US dollars (percentages of the original request are in parentheses). The foundation's $4.5M request, granted in full, is excluded for easier scaling.

How US$8.4M in donors' funds is being spent: first reports in

Late last year, the Funds Dissemination Committee (FDC) awarded $8.4 million in donors' money to 11 Wikimedia entities, including the Wikimedia Foundation and 10 nationally defined chapters. Under this arrangement, these organisations are required to issue quarterly reports on how far they have progressed towards their declared programmatic and financial goals. The FDC has announced that all 11 completed and submitted their reports by the 1 April deadline; FDC staff have responded to each report and made broad comments about the body of reports.

Basic issues

The staff made several basic points about the chapter reports. Low volunteer participation is a general problem, and where chapters employ staff, how to establish an effective balance between them and volunteers "in leading, coordinating and implementing activities" is an open question. FDC staff were encouraged by chapters' development of "a diverse set of funding partners [and] opportunities for collaboration and learning across the movement and with other allied organisations". Staff were pleased with progress on building and sustaining successful GLAM partnerships, and with new phases in education activities, "including primary and secondary schools as well as universities. These activities seem to be generating excitement and gaining momentum."

Suggestions for improvement

After reviewing the reports, the staff have published suggestions related to issues they found in most or all of the reports:

Specific praise and criticism

Wikimedia Germany—by far the largest non-WMF recipient of funds in Round 1 ($1.8M) and with more than 40 employees—came in for staunch criticism of the insufficient detail and metrics it provided for most activities. FDC staff pointed out that the chapter also faces challenges in managing the relationship between its volunteer and staff roles. Wikimedia Austria drew criticism for providing no "concrete metrics" and for failing to "show staff expenses separately in their financial report", although the chapter was praised for achieving its fundraising certification ("a significant accomplishment"), and for its progress in forging institutional partnerships. The Hungarian chapter received a back-handed compliment—that its report included "some metrics". Wikimedia Sweden was told that "in future reports, we hope WMSE will deepen its metrics and tie them more closely to the objectives of each program."

WMUK was upbraided for providing no correspondence between its 37 "programs" and budget line-items, and for failing to report on related metrics that appeared in the original funding proposal. Low volunteer participation in events, microgrant programs, and institutional framework was noted.

Wikimedia France was singled out for praise regarding its metrics and the openness with which it reported its successes and failures: the report "is filled with examples of sharing 'what worked' and 'what didn’t work', and we believe their challenges will help other entities avoid similar problems". On the other hand, the staff expressed surprise and regret that Wikimedia Netherlands "seems reluctant to share lessons learned about challenges or activities that did not work". Sweden was praised for its "admirable approach to sharing learning in its report".

Interestingly enough, the Foundation itself is eligible for FDC funding, and was awarded more than $4.5M in Round 1. FDC staff noted that "the WMF does not provide details about its expenses by program area", and that the numbers in its report indicate "a risk of a significant underspend". The WMF has dropped the technical distinction between core and non-core activities (no doubt greeted with relief by entities who found these categories problematic).

PRISM prompts Foundation response

Emails to the Wikimedia-l mailing list this week regarding Edward Snowden's recent revelations on the United States' PRISM program have drawn a response from the Wikimedia Foundation.

PRISM is a recently revealed electronic surveillance program initiated by the United States National Security Agency under the Patriot Act of 2001. According to its Wikipedia article, PRISM collects data from "email, video and voice chat, videos, photos, voice over IP conversations, file transfers, login notifications and social networking details". The program was first exposed by Glenn Greenwald of the UK Guardian newspaper.

One of the more obvious implications for the Wikimedia movement involves its servers, all of which are located in the US. As Liam Wyatt asked, "Does [this fact] now compromise our mission either in a technical, privacy or an ethical sense?" With the internal discussion ongoing, the WMF's legal team stated that:

The interest from the public in Wikipedia's related articles can be measured with Henrik's page view stats tool. National Security Agency and related redirects have seen some of the starkest jumps, soaring from about 1,250 views per day to a maximum of over 31,000. The Patriot Act went from 3,000 per day to 14,000 or more. Glenn Greenwald's article has been receiving 5000–10,000 additional views per day, while the article on the individual responsible for releasing the information (Edward Snowden) has received more than half a million views since its creation on 8 June. Also worthy of note is the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, which portrays a dystopian world with all-seeing government surveillance overseen, with a large bump from 8,000 to more than 20,000 views per day. This increase in interest has been mirrored by the book's sales, which have surged by 7000% on alone.

The PRISM program has collected a large amount of online data from at least nine prominent companies.

In brief

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Is it true that the Foundation has recently switched from logging 1/1000th of all page view and search requests with IP addresses and usernames to logging 100%? It is difficult for me to follow the discussion (see also this thread), but I would like to know when this started (or is planned) and who approved it, and how many law enforcement requests for this data are processed per month, before and after the change. EllenCT (talk) 10:08, 16 June 2013 (UTC)[reply]


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