Monthly Archives: May 2015

Clear and Pixelated

Those of you visiting the S-MAP archive might notice a discrepancy: some of the screenshots are pixelated, and some are not. Specifically, some shots have profile pictures and names pixelated or blurred, and some do not. You might wonder: what gives?

The answer is: I’m trying to respect people’s implicit privacy  concerns. I’ve come up with a set of rules regarding this:

  • If the site in question is open — that is, you can see content just by going to its URLs without having to log in, then there is no need to pixelate. The people posting there are doing so publicly.
  • If the site hides content behind a login page, then the members there have an expectation of privacy. Even if they use pseudonyms, they still likely don’t want their posts or avatars made available in the S-MAP.
  • If the site is open but is hosted on the Dark Web (i.e., it’s a Tor hidden service or an Eepsite), then the members likely care about their privacy and their avatars and posts ought to be pixelated.
  • It goes without saying that if the content is hosted on the Dark Web and there is a log in wall, the expectation of privacy is really, really high.

Since the goal of the S-MAP archive is to get screenshots to show site interface structure, the content the users are creating is not the focus. If any  researcher wanted to learn about the culture  or contents of these sites, the S-MAP won’t help — going to the site and spending a lot of time on it is the best course. Therefore, I believe it’s less important to display user names or avatars if there is any indication site members don’t want that information public.