Wikipedia Publishes First-Ever Transparency Report–And There’s A Funny Story About A Monkey

Compared to Google and Facebook, Wikipedia is remarkably tight-lipped when it comes to requests for user data.

Wikipedia Publishes First-Ever Transparency Report–And There’s A Funny Story About A Monkey
[Image: Flickr user Tim Pierce]

Although Wikipedia is one of the largest websites in the world, it receives relatively few requests from government agencies for user information, especially compared to companies like Google, Facebook, and Twitter. Even then, it rarely grants disclosures, as detailed in the Wikipedia Foundation’s first-ever transparency report published Wednesday.


“Freedom of speech is essential to the Wikimedia movement,” the foundation writes. “Our users trust us to protect their identities against unlawful disclosure and we take this responsibility seriously.”

To give you a rough idea of how few user information requests Wikipedia receives compared to its web contemporaries, let’s take a look at requests received from July 2012 to June 2013. On this chart are, from left to right, Wikipedia, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google, and Facebook.

Let’s take Google as an example. The search giant received 27,477 user data requests from governments or individuals, and produced that information 17,561 times, giving it a 64% compliance rate. Wikipedia, on the other hand, received 13 requests and granted none of them. That’s why it’s an itty-bitty dot.

It’s a bit of an odd comparison: Part of Wikipedia’s ability to stay tight-lipped is simply the nature of the platform. Wikipedia isn’t a communication or social network. It prides itself on having an anonymous crowd generate content in a way that the other web giants don’t. Facebook and Google are very much in the identity business.

“As part of our commitment to user privacy, Wikimedia collects little nonpublic user information,” the foundation’s legal counsel writes in a blog post, “and retains that information for a short amount of time.”

Wikipedia did, however, receive 304 non-DMCA-related takedown requests. This was one of the better cases. It involves a monkey:


A photographer left his camera unattended in a national park in North Sulawesi, Indonesia. A female crested black macaque monkey got ahold of the camera and took a series of pictures, including some self-portraits. The pictures were featured in an online newspaper article and eventually posted to Commons. We received a takedown request from the photographer, claiming that he owned the copyright to the photographs. We didn’t agree, so we denied the request.

None of the other requests were granted, either.

Browse the rest of the report over here.

About the author

Chris is a staff writer at Fast Company, where he covers business and tech. He has also written for The Week, TIME, Men's Journal, The Atlantic, and more.