Sharing Postcrossers' addresses without permission

I was alarmed to see the following statement in the pinned topic F.A.Q. How to Spread Joy:

This, and supporting comments in another topic, seem to suggest that at any point, a forum member to whom I have privately given my address as part of a tag or swap can then redistribute my address to other forum members without my permission.

If this is the case, this is completely contrary to the impression I had that Postcrossing places priority on users’ privacy, as stated in the Community Guidelines:

Keep private information private.
The addresses given to you are private information and can only be used for Postcrossing purposes. Do not share them with anyone or make them public on the internet. This also applies to what is written on the postcards you have received, so please do not scan it.

This matter also appears to fall under the User Conduct category in the Terms of Service:

As a condition of use, you promise not to use the Services for any purpose that is unlawful or prohibited by these Terms, or any other purpose not reasonably intended by Postcrossing. By way of example, and not as a limitation, you agree not to use the Services:
[…]
2) To post or transmit, or cause to be posted or transmitted, any communication or solicitation designed or intended to obtain password, account, or private information from any Postcrossing user

I believe this would apply to any requests by other members with whom I have not been in contact to obtain my address.

I am not at all comfortable with having unknowingly waived my ability to consent to the distribution of my address beyond “official” postcard exchanges and exchanges in which I knowingly participate. If this is the case, that my being a forum member means that I no longer have any right to contain my address to those people with whom I choose to share it, then I would like to know how to revoke my “forum member” status.

If this is not the case, I would like to see official clarification that consent must be obtained from Postcrossers–including forum members–before their addresses are redistributed among users.

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Absolutely! Joining Postcrossing should not mean you are automatically okay with your address being shared around. I personally would hate that and would be angry to receive any “surprise mail”, more so if it comes from somebody who got my address from another member.

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Hello @PinkNoodle, I know from encountering your posts over the past month that you’ve been an active and valuable contributor to this new Forum, although I infer from your profile that your experience with the Forum, legacy or new, has been recent. I completely understand your shock at learning the Forum does not adhere to exactly the same privacy guidelines as the “official” Postcrossing site.

The difference between the two is that, although the Forum makes reference to the official Postcrossing Guidelines and Terms of Service as general behavioral parameters, the Forum actually is not an official part of Postcrossing. This is explicitly stated in the Forum Guidelines, which are distinct from the official Postcrossing Guidelines you cited:

“There are many games and activities on the forum, like tags, swaps, round robins, etc. These are not official Postcrossing activities.”

Also, although the Postcrossing administrators take your privacy concerns very seriously and of course would try their best to act quickly to prevent the malicious misuse of your personal information, those Forum Guidelines further state that your participation in the Forum (as opposed to the official Postcrossing site) is your responsibility and occurs at your own risk:

“These games and activities are done at your own risk.”

This is exactly as if you were participating on other social media user-driven platforms or, let’s face it, in your everyday real life. If you share your address (even your return address on a piece of snail mail or your address in a friend’s address book), you cede a great deal of your control over that piece of personal information to whoever happens to see it. The difference here, in the Forum, is that this is structured as a community of people of good will, or as the Forum Guidelines state, a shared public park in which we all take responsibility for the common welfare:

“Think of it like a public park: a space that belongs to the community, and that we can all take care of together.”

In other words, to participate in the Forum is to trust, only to the extent you are comfortable, that the people with whom you share your address also share your privacy concerns, and that if they do give your address to others, it is out of friendly and not malicious or careless motives.

Many if not most of the activities on this Forum would not be possible without that degree of informed trust. Round robin hosts and people who participate in those round robins, or in tags or swaps with you, all have your address, and to participate in those activities is to understand that fact, and to trust that your information is not misused.

The clause that you cite in the Terms of Service is, I think, taken slightly out of context. It actually refers to those who would try to harvest personal information for commercial or other dubious purposes unrelated to Postcrossing.

In the Random Acts of Smileness round robin, Forum members share the addresses of other Forum members with whom they’ve developed a real friendship, in the hopes of surprising them with a card from another Forum member who, more often than not, turns into another friend. To assure you that the administrators take your privacy seriously, I will tell you that I’ve had lengthy correspondence with @paulo about the disclosure of addresses, before they settled on current policy. In the 6 1/2 years that I’ve hosted this round robin, out of more than a thousand RAS cards that have been received, we have received absolutely zero complaints from RAS recipients about the sharing of their addresses. We have received a thousand or more thanks from Forum members who have been touched by these unexpected expressions of appreciation. The RAS round robin also existed for many years before I began hosting it, which speaks to the care and discretion with which it has operated. Again, this Forum is structured on the principles of good faith, friendship, and a certain degree of informed trust.

I understand that you prefer to prevent the sharing of your address with those to whom you have not yourself given it. However, I for one would be sorry to see you quitting the Forum altogether because of this issue, because I’ve found this to be a very kind and trustworthy community of like-minded postcard-lovers. Please allow me to instead offer this suggestion: you might simply state your wishes on your Forum profile, something along the lines of “Please do not share my address with other Postcrossers, Forum members, or the general public, under any circumstances.”

I hope I’ve answered at least some of your concerns about this issue. I am not an administrator or moderator of this Forum, only the long-time host of the Random Acts of Smileness round robin, with (full disclosure) some interest in continuing to encourage and nurture the community atmosphere here. :slightly_smiling_face:

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I fully agree with Maleko.
If you play here in the forum, e.g. in RRs and tags, it is your free will to give your address to someone who you don’t know. If you don’t want that, you don’t have to.

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I truly appreciate your thoughtful response to my concerns. I would, however, offer the following feedback:

Like me, there are many new Forum users who, despite acquainting themselves with the Forum Guidelines, will not become aware of the nebulous distinction between Forum Guidelines and Postcrossing Community Guidelines unless the distinction is made more obvious. While one can gather that tags and swaps follow different protocols than sending postcards to users chosen through the main site’s algorithm, I submit that there should be explicit language in the Forum Guidelines and in the Games and Activities category itself that the Postcrossing moderators do not expressly discourage users from redistributing each others’ addresses among themselves. If I had known this, I would have never participated in any “unofficial” swaps, on or off the Forum. Am I now forever subject to having my address redistributed by any user, at any time, without my permission, because I have provided my address to another user under the delusion that he or she would be discouraged by the Guidelines (which I thought were universal between the main site and the Forum) from redistributing it against my will? Does the laissez-faire approach to user security apply to swaps arranged outside the Forum as well? I think new users have a right to know that different rules apply.

My question arose because of a topic I saw posted in the non-RAS category today, in which a very sweet Postcrosser was inspired by the profile of another Postcrosser (not a Forum user), who had recently suffered multiple traumatic life events, to clandestinely acquire her address and rally together Forum users to send her cards to cheer her up. Although this idea was born from generous and compassionate intentions, I cautioned the user to contact the woman first to gauge her willingness to receive condolence cards and have her address distributed among forum users. The creator of the topic agreed that the shock and uncertainty behind the surprise deliveries might outweigh the benefits of receiving such cards, and promptly withdrew the topic.

Subsequently, I saw @Feuerstuhl’s post, pinned by @meiadeleite, about the rules regarding the sharing of addresses, in which he made the demonstrably dangerous assumption that Postcrossers are comfortable with sharing their addresses with strangers without their knowledge. No long track record of “good will” or “lack of complaints” would console a security-compromised Postcrosser caught off guard by the “fun surprise” that involved their address being shared with innumerable others without any consideration of his or her safety, or even willingness to receive such attention. Like @Kompis-Ninna, if my address were redistributed by a user with whom I had shared my address presumably in confidence, even if done with the best of intentions, I would be absolutely horrified.

I am well aware, @Nordbaer, that I can choose whether or not to provide my address to a Forum user. That is not my point at all. My concern is about users sharing other users’ addresses without first receiving permission to do so. If I initiate a trade with @maleko, I knowingly grant him my address via private message so that he may send me a card that I have requested. There is a mutual agreement of the objective and circumstances surrounding the trade. If he then redistributes my address to dozens of users with whom I have not agreed to trade, well, I would have imagined until now that it would violate the rules of Postcrossing. However, disappointingly, this appears not to be the case.

Now that I have provided my address to other users under the false pretense that they would be expected to treat it as private information, and be discouraged from sharing it around to their hearts’ content, how do I retract my apparently implicitly-given consent? Must I stop using the Forum, or Postcrossing entirely?

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As @maleko said, you can write in your profile that people please do not share your address, not even with good intentions – and they won’t. This doesn’t happen often if you don’t participate in the RAS RR yourself and don’t have a close forum friend who loves to distribute Random Acts of Smileness (or tell that person to stop). I think I am also going to rephrase that part of the RAS+non-RAS F.A.Q. but I’m not sure how yet and uni comes first.

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yes, please do, when you have the time of course :wink:
I don’t think because I’m a postcrosser it’s okay that my address can be shared around.

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I wrote those FAQ yesterday in a bit of a hurry because we had problems with people sharing addresses publicly. There is a bit of stuff that I want to add, too. E.g. tips for people who want to write a RAS instead of arrange one or what to do if you receive one :thinking:

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This is a rather impractical suggestion, don’t you think? Would it not be easier to clarify the difference in the Forum Guidelines and Postcrossing Community Guidelines with regard to their distinct approaches to user privacy, so that users understand from the beginning exactly what they are consenting (or not consenting) to?

Also, I would like to know if the same lackadaisical restrictions on redistributing addresses also apply outside of RAS.

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But that does not entitle the other person to share my address with another Postcrosser or someone else.
“Keep private things private” is also valid for the forum members! In so far I fully agree with pink noodle!

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Perhaps someting like “if you are sure the person does not oppose that you share her address” would fit.

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It’s not working.

For years I have this on my profile:


and still get cards like this every now and then.

Of course, it’s a bit different from what’s written here, but the idea that people respect this doesn’t always work out.

To clarify: For me it’s totally okay if one well-known forum member gives my address to any other forum member for such RAS games etc. pp. The people who interact with me a lot also know that (I have only a (big) problem with such organizations like Touchnote as you never know what they really do with your data). Just wanted to point out that it is not done automatically with the suggested addition.

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I have to agree with the original statement. Just because something is not officially postcrossing and postcrossing itself doesn’t hold responsibility for tags/games/whatsoever (although the staff always help us ensure this is a safe environment, thank you!), that doesn’t mean we give our consent for the address to be shared to anyone. When someone tags me and asks for it, I decide to give my address to that user - not to all the users.

Edit: can’t remember the guidelines and I’m on my phone in a bit of an hurry. But if it isn’t written yet that we shouldn’t share other people’s address without consent, shouldn’t it be?

One thing, which I understand, is Postcrossing not holding any responsibility if someone tags me and doesn’t send a card. But if this forum is provided by Postcrossing, shouldn’t this rule be written more clearly. Or even being mandatory to be written at the description of almost every tag? :thinking:

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But that is about Touchnote, isn’t it? And about official postcrossing. There are bound to be people who don’t really read the profile or whose English is simply not good enough to understand everything.
But RAS are done by forum members who have had contact with you and know you to a certain extent and that is a very different situation, I think. If you clearly state in your profile that you do not want to receive RAS, then your friends won’t send you one. There can be exceptions, of course, but they are really exceptions and not the rule.

I would never share another person’s address without consent. And I hope nobody will ever do it with my address. I really dislike the RAS RR for this for example and would never participate.

Whenever I swap for a RAS surprise I only give the person’s (first) name and use my address with “c/o”… then I forward it later on.

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Hi PinkNoodle, and everyone else!

I think we could have done a better job of assuaging some of these privacy concerns. The forum has been running smoothly for so many years that sometimes we forget that things we take for granted might not be as clear to everyone.

Let me try to reassure you on two points:

  • We do expect that private information is kept private, and although you can do so, you should not need to state this on your profile for it to hold true. When you participate in a Tag or RR, you’re not consenting for your address to be freely distributed — I don’t think forum members interpret it that way.

  • RAS activities are done by nominating members whom you know are ok with their own address being shared. These nominees are typically your forum friends, probably people who’ve known for a while or even met. You must know that they are ok with their address being shared, otherwise you can just use your own address to receive the postcards, and then forward the mail to them.

I don’t think anyone would be comfortable nominating someone else for a RAS based on one random postcard interaction they’ve had in the past… That would be alarming and the person would not even know what to do with this postcard or where it was coming from. Instead, there’s a sense of community in the RAS, a tight-knit group of people who like to surprise each other from time to time.

@maleko Maybe we can work together to make this more clear in the RAS explanation, so that newbies don’t misinterpret this point?

@Feuerstuhl I see where this confusion is coming from on your non-RAS FAQ post and others — let’s make this more clear to avoid misunderstandings.

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Thank you so much for taking time to address these concerns and clarify the expectations. :heart:

There do seem to be many assumptions made about how Forum users will treat information that is expected to be private; it would be very helpful to have these expectations made explicitly clear in the Forum Guidelines and especially in the RR/RAS/Tag rules, for the benefit of Postcrossers new to the Forum.

Until these assumed expectations are put into writing, personally, I regret having participated in “unofficial” swap activities on the Forum, and will avoid them in the future.

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I have a RR that has an extremely close-knit membership. When one person within the “family” hurts or needs some extra TLC, I’ve sent a note to other RR members, advising them of the situation. In every, single instance, I get the information from the person either posted on the forum or sent to me. IF the other members reach out, then they have the opportunity. These are all people who had given their addresses to receive cards from random groups they join. It is logical to me that since that person wouldn’t know who in a group is going to send them a card, it is not violating privacy to let that same group of people know what may be going on.

There are many times when members may confide difficult personal situations and specifically ask that I not send a note to the group. Of course, I honor that request. I will find a way to ensure no one in my group is unhappy with our tradition. It’s something that has brought great comfort to others.

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I don’t take issue with the idea of round robins. You said it yourself: members of these groups voluntarily provide their addresses to other members of a group of their choosing. This is not my concern; I don’t know how to make this more clear than I already have.

My concern is about some Postcrossing Forum members declaring that it can be assumed that all Postcrossers implicitly agree to having their addresses redistributed among Forum members; that being a member of the Forum, not just a round robin or other group, is a waiver ceding control of your address. I believe @meiadeleite has made it clear above that this is not the case, even though there is insufficient clarification in the Forum Guidelines.

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In all the years - almost a decade - of being an active member of the forum that has never been an issue. I was and am most active in the German forum community and Germany is big on data protection and privacy laws. Never ever would someone give out an address without considering the wishes of that person first …

I am not opposed to putting this in writing, though.

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