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From: Jonathan Larmour <>
To: Alex Schuilenburg <>
Subject: Re: Commercial postings on ecos-discuss etc
Date: Tue, 02 Mar 2010 20:10:00 -0000	[thread overview]
Message-ID: <> (raw)
In-Reply-To: <>

On 02/03/10 17:28, Alex Schuilenburg wrote:
> On 2010-03-02 13:53, Jonathan Larmour wrote:
>> On 27/02/10 14:43, Alex Schuilenburg wrote:
>>> If this is not a commercial post, unfortunately his posting was not
>>> clear as to the nature, reasoning and backing of this research.
>> Does it need to be? If it was like some of those spam telephone calls
>> one can get where they purport to be "doing a survey" (to get around
>> telemarketing rules) but actually doing advertising/sales, that would be
>> one thing. But this contains no insidious promotion, marketing or sales.
>> It's just a request for people to do a straightforward survey.
> To clarify, I understood the maintainers activities and use of
> sourceware to be limited to community interest only.  If their use is
> commercial, it should clearly be noted. IMHO the survey clearly will
> benefit the commercial organisation behind it, and not necessarily the
> community, which is my point. If it is not for the benefit of the
> community and is commercial, and as I was previously told, all such
> posts should be so highlighted. If, however, posts of this nature are
> acceptable, then at least I know what the guidance is.

Lots of posts by people on the ecos lists will benefit companies, rather
than the community! :-)

>>> I would
>>> be most interested to see laid open what development plans the ecos
>>> maintainers may have for host tool development, as has been strongly
>>> advocated in the past.
>> I think we both know that there aren't concrete plans here.
> I am not in a position to comment on this

That leaves me wondering a bit.

>>>  I would also enquire as to why the results are
>>> not being made public for the benefit of the community.
>> Apparently the results are being made available to those who enter the
>> survey, which is more than sufficient.
> Nope, only those who provide their email addresses, which then gives the
> commercial organisation behing the survey an idea of what type of
> development is being done by that person and/or the organsiation they
> work for, and who to approach for sales etc.  John does not have to use
> the email address, just the domain is sufficient, to gain any sales
> information.
> IMHO the survey should have been anonymous, with the results made
> public, to be legitimately of community interest. 

Hmm, I see your point in this bit. John, care to comment? Are the
addresses (email or IP) used for _any_ purpose other than sending out
survey results? If so, is this made clear to survey users?

>>> However, if this is a commercial post, then I would like to ask how the
>>> policy regarding commercial postings has changed. In addition, if John
>>> is conducting this survey for the benefit of his company, I would like
>>> to point out to him and you that I believe the survey does not comply
>>> fully to either the Companies Act 2006 or the Data Protection Act 1998.
>> That's not an issue for the maintainers.
> Interesting position.

We can't know the details of laws in all the potential countries that
people may be posting from.

I'm not condoning anything if the law is being broken, but it's not the
maintainers' job to stop people submitting their own data. And clearly,
marking something as [COMMERCIAL] would make no difference to legalities.

That being said, I would hope/expect John _is_ complying with the law.
Handling personal data such as email addresses is certainly regulated by
the DPA. I don't know about the Companies Act.

>>> I would also like further clarification regarding netiquette and
>>> commercial postings on ecos-discuss in this regard.
>> No mention was made of John's company. There was no advertising, no
>> promotion, and results were available to those who filled in the survey.
>> I fully expect John to use the outcome of the survey to guide his
>> company's actions, but that doesn't make the post commercial IMO.
> An interesting contradiction.  A posting does not have to contain
> advertising, sales or anything visible to be commercial in nature.  The
> survey is clearly of benefit to his company (as you say so yourself),
> which makes it commercial in nature. Only those who choose to provide
> their email addresses get "some" of the results, and commercial
> organisations such as eCosCentric are explicitly excluded from the
> survey (yet also have an obvious interest in the results of a legitimate
> survey).

I thought you were claiming it already wasn't legitimate ;-). Anyone
_that_ bothered to find out would fill in the survey (albeit possibly
with bogus data!).

An obvious solution by John would be to post the results to the ecos
(and other embedded) lists. It would probably be a wise move in any case
to prevent someone putting in bogus data just to get the results! John?

>  There is also a whole host of other information that can be
> gathered from the survey, IP addresses, countries of those taking part
> in the surveys, companies taking part in the survey and their main areas
> of interest, etc etc which also will not be made available, even to
> those people taking part in the survey.  This kind of information is
> invaluable to those in the marketplace, and people pay good money to
> professional survey organisations such as CMP Media to get this
> information.  I think you have underestimated what kind of information
> can be gathered from surveys...

If the survey does not make crystal clear the purposes the data gathered
may be used for, and who by, then I believe indeed it would fall foul of
Data Protection law. But again, the maintainers as a body can't be the
ones to make judgements about whether posts comply with data protection
law. I have no reason not to give it the benefit of the doubt. If John
can assure us that no identifiable information (primarily IP/email
addresses) is retained or used, then that would seem acceptable to me
(although I'm deliberately setting aside any legality issues here).

I very much doubt the maintainers want to go down the route of
moderating the mailing lists. Or anything which implies we are taking
responsibility for the content of the lists (there be dragons!).

> And going back to my original point.  As the survey is being conducted
> by John for the benefit of his company, I would like to know why did he
> just not say so.

I assume because the results will be distributed, and therefore not
proprietary to the company. Those who fill in the survey do "benefit"
too, so it's not just something for John. Of course that's not carte
blance to anything, as there are degrees. But from the information I've
seen so far I have no reason to assume it falls on the wrong side of the
line. IMHO anyway. But it would seem better to publicise the responses
on the lists, not just the ones who filled in the survey.

I am also now seeing your point, from a Data Protection Act POV about
knowing who (including companies) is using data, if the data is not
anonymised. But maybe it is anonymised by the time John sees it; maybe
he has no visibility of the IP addresses, or email addresses. Again from
a maintainer *policy* point of view, the default position has to be to
assume things are legitimate.

> Why did he using his personal (and maintainer) email
> address to solicit responses? Could it be because more people would
> probably respond to the survey than would if they knew there was a
> commercial organisation behind it and that this survey was for that
> company's commercial benefit?  This is what IMHO is an abuse of position
> and contradicts the guidelines given regarding commercial postings.

John's response here already says it was personal research.

Where do we draw the line with "commercial benefit"? Adverts? Research?
Surveys? Signatures? Email addresses? Indirect references? Mentioning
the company name anywhere in a post? It is too far to say there must be
/no/ commercial benefit.

>> I'm afraid I really can't see a problem here.
> If that is the case, IMHO this kind of sets a precedent as to what is
> permissible by the other maintainers and commercial organisations, which
> is contrary to what I previously was led to believe and commercially
> adhered to.  I obviously am also disappointed that the commercial nature
> and intent of the survey was not initially stated and not made obvious,

What guidelines are you thinking of?

It's true that, looking at there
/aren't/ any guidelines at present, which is something I should fix.
Then that may help remove uncertainties, although there will always be
grey areas.

> that it is in breach of various UK laws because of its commercial ties,
> and that this behaviour is IMHO being condoned by the maintainers.

We can't condone an allegation with insufficient information.


  parent reply	other threads:[~2010-03-02 20:10 UTC|newest]

Thread overview: 9+ messages / expand[flat|nested]  mbox.gz  Atom feed  top
2010-02-27 14:43 Alex Schuilenburg
2010-02-27 17:15 ` John Dallaway
2010-02-27 21:58   ` Alex Schuilenburg
2010-03-02 13:54 ` Jonathan Larmour
     [not found]   ` <>
2010-03-02 20:10     ` Jonathan Larmour [this message]
2010-03-02 21:06       ` Gary Thomas
     [not found]       ` <>
2010-03-02 23:29         ` Jonathan Larmour
2010-03-03  0:21 Alex Schuilenburg
2010-03-03  0:22 Alex Schuilenburg

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