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Take action for a strong Community behind CouchSurfing!
Posted September 10th, 2012 - 4:40 pm from Basel, Switzerland
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Posted September 14th, 2012 - 8:09 am by from Marseille, France (Permalink)
Hello Stefan,
many of you are aware of the petition going around ("For a strong Community behind CouchSurfing").
Our legal team crafted a formal response. Here it is :


Dear petition signers,

Thank you for sharing your concerns about the recent updates to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. The level of comfort that individual members have with how their data is used online is very personal. This is why it's so important that members read these policies and determine how they individually choose to use our site and mobile apps.

In reading through the petition, we've noticed several areas in which incorrect assumptions have been made. This is perfectly understandable. Legal language, as you know, is unique from country to country and frequently the way that a sentence sounds in common language is not accurate because of the application of the law in a particular system.

We'd like to address your points not with a mind to convincing anyone to accept things which they find unacceptable, but to clarify and explain points on which we feel there is confusion.

1. "Don't share our data with anyone without our permission."

Under these policies, as applied through US privacy law, we cannot sell or transfer member data to advertisers or other third parties for their profitable use without obtaining your permission and allowing you the ability to opt out. The terms that this question refers to are in place so that we can share data, when necessary, with third parties and contractors that we work with (or will work with in the future) to provide our services. For example, when a member gets verified, we share their name and address with the company that sends our verification postcards. This data is strictly protected by a legal agreement that binds the company to use the information only for that contracted purpose. They are not allowed to use the data in any other way, or to transfer it to any other parties.

We do have the right to share anonymized and amalgamated data regarding large groups of members. For example, if we wanted to negotiate a discount for CouchSurfers with a travel service, we would potentially share with them the total numbers of members that fit their desired demographic. Another example would be if we worked with an analytics firm to determine how members are using the website. In these scenarios, no personally identifiable member data would be shared.

Under US law, if we decided to change the policies so that personally identifiable data could be shared in different ways than in our current policies (for example, by selling it to advertisers), we would need to notify you of that change in advance.

2. "Let us decide who can get our data."

As discussed above, the policies require us to notify you and give you the option to opt out if at any time we would like to share your personal data with an advertiser or a third party for commercial purposes. At that time, you would be welcome to opt out and your data would not be shared. The exception to this rule is if you are the subject of a legal investigation, in which case we will comply with any official legal proceedings.

3. "After we delete data, don't share it anymore and delete it soon after."

Just as with active data, deleted data can't be transferred to advertisers or third parties for commercial purposes without first notifying and allowing you the ability to opt out. However, we do sometimes need to access deleted data for member safety reasons. If someone were to use our system to commit a crime, it is important that they not then be able to delete the evidence. We share deleted data when required by a legal investigation.

4. "Don't terminate our access to CS or delete our profiles without any cause."

This term is necessary to allow our safety team to protect the community. It's important to note the difference between reason and cause. We're not going to delete people for no reason. But this term allows us to delete people for behavior that may not be technically illegal: for commercial spamming, for example, or repeated bad behavior towards other members. We retain the right to delete those accounts, and the policies allow us to do so without having to establish that the person has broken the law or our policies.

5. "Follow the rules of the countries where you provide your service."

We comply with US privacy law, which is the only legal system that we are required to be compliant with as we are registered in the US. It would be impossible for us to be fully compliant with the laws of all 232 countries and territories where our members are based.

However, we know that we have a very large membership base in Europe. This is why we are taking the optional step of opting in to the EU Safe Harbor. This requires us to adopt the seven guiding principles of the European Data Privacy Directive, and makes us criminally liable for any violation of those principles.

This is a serious commitment, and one that we are happy to make to be sure that we’re protecting members’ data.

6. "Inform us about every change in the Terms of Use and other Guidelines."

Now that the policies are up to date, future changes will generally be small and will be noted on the website via an updated date header on the policies. However, when we make material changes that we feel have an impact on how the privacy of data is handled, we will inform you.

7. "Don't write contradictory information in the Terms of Use and other Guidelines."

The fundamental misunderstanding here is the statement, "the Terms of Use (which are ruling over the Privacy Policy)." This is actually incorrect. The two policies operate in conjunction with each other. The Terms of Use is the legal framework under which we operate, and the Privacy Policy is a statement of how we collect, use, and share your data. In other words, the Terms of Use allows the broad foundation of possible uses, and the Privacy Policy tells you what we actually do with your data. So while the Terms allow us the ability to display your data, the Privacy Policy specifies that we can do so within our services and only those other purposes that are specified.

8, 9, & 10. "Don't tell us fairy tales and lies." "Ask the community about their opinion about changes before you change something." and "Listen to the community."

The changes to our policies were legally necessary to bring us up to date and ensure that we remain compliant with the law. It isn't feasible for us to crowdsource decisions of this kind. We always act with our members in mind, and it's important to us to remain open and clear about the changes we make. Dialogue and discussion is important and the CouchSurfing team invests considerable resources into both understanding the thoughts of the community and explaining our goals and our actions. We will never be able to make everyone happy, but we try our best to make decisions that will best serve the greatest number of people.

Thank you for taking the time to communicate your thoughts with us. We hope the information we've provided here helps clarify some of the issues so that you can make informed decisions about your use of the website and mobile apps.


The CouchSurfing Legal Team

Posted September 15th, 2012 - 2:51 pm from Basel, Switzerland
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Posted September 16th, 2012 - 9:50 am by from Marseille, France (Permalink)
Hey Stefan

I'm haven' been a part of the writers of this answer : it just a copy/paste given by The CouchSurfing Legal Team.

As Bill Loundy, from SF wrote, the effective date of the new Privacy Policy and ToU has changed : from Sept 14 to Sept 21.

Bill said the reasons why (this is a copy/paste too !!) :

"When The CouchSurfing Legal Team started working on the new policies, they also began exploring the
process of opting into EU-US Safe Harbor (which requires them to adopt
the 7 guiding principles of the European Data Privacy Directive, and
means that if they violate any of those principles we're criminally
This isn't required by law, but many of CS members are in
Europe and they want everyone to feel comfortable about the way they handle
The two processes - drafting the privacy policy and opting-in to
Safe Harbor - are independent.
As such, they initially thought they'd launch
the Privacy Policy along with the TOU and then the Safe Harbor would
come later.
Clearly, though, a lot of the concern about this policy is
coming out of Europe and so they decided to delay the effective date of Privacy Policy to correspond with the opting-in to EU-US Safe
Harbor. The CouchSurfing Legal Team hope that this decision speaks to concerned members of our
European community.

So - the new Privacy Policy and new ToU and EU-US Safe Harbor will go into effect end of next week"...

So we have to wait until the 21th of september...


Posted September 16th, 2012 - 11:39 am from Basel, Switzerland
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Posted September 19th, 2012 - 7:20 am by from Marseille, France (Permalink)
Just see the new ToU on 21th of september there :


Posted September 19th, 2012 - 9:33 am from Basel, Switzerland
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Posted September 19th, 2012 - 9:39 am by from Marseille, France (Permalink)
Yes Stefan I saw it...

One question for you that one CS members asked to me :

Is avaaz.org where is the petition will keep our datas??

Thx for your reply

Posted September 19th, 2012 - 9:53 am from Basel, Switzerland
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Posted September 22nd, 2012 - 9:36 am by from Marseille, France (Permalink)
More informations are here :