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New CS Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community Guidelienes
Posted August 26th, 2012 - 9:52 am by from Paris, France (Permalink)
The following modified Terms of Use (with a now separate Privacy Policy and Community Guidelines) are apparently going to take effect if you sign up or use the services after September 14th, 2012:

New CouchSurfing Terms of Use as of September 14th, 2012

“PLEASE READ THESE TERMS OF USE CAREFULLY. BY CLICKING "SIGN UP" OR BY
ACCESSING OR USING THE SERVICES, YOU AGREE TO BE BOUND BY THESE TERMS OF
USE AND ALL TERMS INCORPORATED BY REFERENCE. IF YOU DO NOT AGREE TO ALL
OF THESE TERMS, DO NOT ACCESS OR USE THE SERVICES."

"Any changes or modifications will be effective immediately upon
posting the revisions on our Services, and you waive any right you
may have to receive specific notice of such changes or modifications.
Your continued use of our Services following the posting of changes
or modifications will constitute your acceptance of such changes or
modifications. Accordingly, you should frequently review these Terms
and applicable policies and guidelines to understand the terms and
conditions that apply to your use of the Services.”

So we have about three weeks to review and discuss them to decide if we
want to continue to use the service under these new conditions and if
and how our use should be adapted.


Here are the main changes which have been identified so far:

"You agree to (a) create a unique password that you do not use
with any other online product or service"

4.3 “Our address-verification tool is intended merely to
confirm that the postal address a member submits to us is
an address at which that member is able to access or
receive mail. CouchSurfing's address-verification tool is not
intended to confirm that a member actually resides at a
particular address. While this is one of many ways to
reduce the risk of misconduct by a member, it is not a
guarantee of any member’s identity or good faith.”

4.4 “CouchSurfing Ambassadors are not agents of CouchSurfing and CouchSurfing is not responsible or liable for any acts or omissions of these Ambassadors.”

"5.3 Member Content License.

If you post Member Content to our Services, you hereby grant us a
perpetual, worldwide, irrevocable, non-exclusive, royalty-free and

fully sublicensable license to use, reproduce, display, perform,
adapt, modify, create derivative works from, distribute, have
distributed and promote such Member Content in any form, in all media
now known or hereinafter created and for any purpose, including
without limitation the right to use your name, likeness, voice or
identity."

"15.4 You hereby represent and warrant that you will not use the Services
if the laws of your country prohibit you from doing so in accordance
with these Terms (for example, if you are not allowed to provide the
types of personal information that we require, or if you are
prohibited from participating in certain Internet activity). By
using the Services, you represent and warrant that such use will not
violate, or cause us to violate, the laws of your country."

"21.1
Governing Law. These
Terms shall be interpreted in accordance with the laws of the State of
California, USA"

Gone are paragraphs 17 (meetings), 18 (languages) and 20 (notices).

Gone are all mentions of “a socially responsible B-Corporation” as well as of
“references” or “vouching” in the terms of use.


Users have become members (“of our services”). Which is very ironic, as reality is the opposite: what used to be members of a community have become users of services, some of which will in the future have to be paid...

Posted August 26th, 2012 - 10:47 am by from Berlin, Germany (Permalink)
And here is another pearl from the Privacy Policy:

«We may change the provisions of this Privacy Policy from time to time. If we make changes, we will notify you, including by revising the date at the top of this policy.
We encourage you to review the Privacy Policy whenever you use our Services to stay informed about our information practices and the ways you can help protect your privacy.»

From what I can understand, they are saying that if they change the policy, there is this comfortable possibility: instead of they telling us with a proper announcement, every time we post something on CS we are encouraged to go to that page and check if the date has changed, and if so, go through the whole thing to discover what actually changed?

Any comment?

Posted August 26th, 2012 - 11:30 am from Berlin, Germany
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Posted August 26th, 2012 - 11:41 am by from Berlin, Germany (Permalink)
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Deleted Post
Posted August 26th, 2012 - 11:42 am by from Berlin, Germany (Permalink)
@Norbert: that is fine.


But, according to your expertise, do you reckon those new ToU will be
legally binding (I personally doubt something like that can be legal in
the EU) or should I seriously consider the deletion of my account on
September 13th?


The 'use of your identity without limitation' part really makes me feel uncomfortable. :-/

Posted August 26th, 2012 - 12:10 pm by from Dijon, France (Permalink)
"do you reckon those new ToU will be legally binding"


Binding on what?
As I see it, there are three major areas - member responsibilities, CS claims of data ownership and CS denial of responsibility.

1) Member responsibilities - CS will maintain its "right" to ban anyone they want. The rules aren't important, they will do what they want.

2) No jurisdiction in the world will assign intellectual property and data rights based on a "contract" like this. But any legally-binding decisions will probably be made by regulatory bodies, based on things like Facebook decisions. However, California does have fairly strong consumer protection and class action suit legislation, putting CS at risk.

3) CS claiming they are responsible for nothing that can possibly go wrong has little legal standing anywhere. But proven in court their responsibility is a relatively high bar to reach.

Posted August 26th, 2012 - 5:56 pm from Albuquerque, United States
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Posted August 26th, 2012 - 6:24 pm from Berlin, Germany
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Posted August 26th, 2012 - 6:42 pm by from Paris, France (Permalink)
Yes, they have finally given "their" assets some thought, but since in my view that is really a separate issue from the terms of use of the services and of the privacy policy (even though the ToU refer to them) I would prefer to treat that subject in a separate thread, here.

Posted August 26th, 2012 - 7:02 pm from Berlin, Germany
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Posted August 27th, 2012 - 8:46 am by from London, England (Permalink)
If I delete the photos from my profile NOW, is CS permitted to use the copies they probably have of them under the new terms of use if I continue to log into my CS profile? Or do the new terms of use only apply to content uploaded after they come into effect?


Posted August 27th, 2012 - 10:10 am by from Paris, France (Permalink)
CouchSurfing is trying to apply the new terms of use to all content if you continue to use the service after September 14th, no matter when it was uploaded.

If CS is permitted to do any of the things they are trying to do is a different question which in my view the competent court(s) would have to decide if the terms are challenged.

Again, for images, the solution seems to be to use links rather than actually upload the images to the CS server.

The linked solution seems to work for all images but the main profile photo which is not displayed in group posts if not present on the server. I have welcomed the use of my own main photos uploaded after CS looted the non-profit assets. The more they use them, the better. I grant them a

"perpetual, worldwide, revocable, non-exclusive, royalty-free and fully sublicensable license to use, reproduce, display, perform, ... distribute, have distributed and promote such Member Content in any form, in all media now known or hereinafter created and for any purpose, including without limitation the right to use my username, likeness, voice? or online identity"

for those ;-).

Not, though, to "adapt, modify or create derivative works from" without my written consent.

Posted August 27th, 2012 - 8:09 pm by from Washington, United States (Permalink)
Ann, it seems we are thinking along the same lines...:

Personally, and as stated on my profile, I claim "grandfather clause" which dictates "a situation in which an old rule continues to apply to some existing situations, while a new rule will apply to all future situations." So since I uploaded under OLD CONDITIONS, they are not bound by future conditions which I could not have possibly known at the time of upload and were not in play at the date of upload and would have potentially changed peoples choices in regards to uploading had they been in play at the time of upload.

Does CS, with the new ToS, feel they are above the law or something?

Posted August 28th, 2012 - 12:26 am from Berlin, Germany
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Posted August 28th, 2012 - 7:54 pm from Albuquerque, United States
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Posted August 29th, 2012 - 12:36 am by from Dijon, France (Permalink)
"I'm still curious what happens if people upload copyrighted material (say from some mega-corporation) onto their profiles - will CS get in trouble for then assuming they can use it?"

I don't think CS will ever try to sell your vacation pictures (or the photos you stole from National Geographic.) for publication in National Geographic.

What they want to "own" is all the information in those photos and the words you post, so they can sell that information secretly to advertising programs. You will never know what information of yours they use and sell. It won't be published.

Posted August 29th, 2012 - 1:41 am from Philadelphia, United States
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Posted August 29th, 2012 - 7:33 am by from Paris, France (Permalink)
If they want to reprimand members hosting only through non-profit networks they'd better make hosting mandatory for all CS "members".

Posted August 29th, 2012 - 6:52 pm from Amsterdam, Netherlands
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Posted August 29th, 2012 - 7:04 pm from Amsterdam, Netherlands
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Posted August 29th, 2012 - 10:23 pm by from Washington, United States (Permalink)
Those were mt thoughts, posted above, AMSTARDOM, re: grandfather clause. I am pretty sure it has legal presedence, then again, I am no lawyer.

Posted August 30th, 2012 - 7:19 am from Berlin, Germany
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Posted August 30th, 2012 - 8:36 pm from Albuquerque, United States
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Posted August 30th, 2012 - 11:09 pm by from Dijon, France (Permalink)
"One of the main follies of US corporations (and citizens) is to believe that the whole world is governed by US law. It is not."

This is also one the advantages and disadvantages of trans-national things such as the Internet. It is seldom certain that ANY law applies. It comes down to the interests of power bases more than anything.

"Whilst it may be valid to hold all of us to California law in the event we bring a law suit against couch$urfing In¢,"

Perhaps less a question than moral or even "legal" validity than a question of California being where they have their money. A judgment elsewhere would likely have little effect on them in practical terms.

It would be interesting to know the legal basis of a Delaware corporation claiming California jurisdiction.

It would also be interesting to know if it is in respect of certain provisions of consumer protection law that CS chose California over Delaware. Both States are known as having relatively strong consumer protection law. I believe the Delaware Attorney General's office has a strong reputation in some regards.


"every organisation you've done business with in the past has a justified interest in keeping documentation about that relationship for a certain time, to protect themselves. Example: if you hand back a leased car to the dealership, they can't ask you to destroy all the paperwork about how much you paid and when, because you may need that as evidence in case of a future dispute. Similarly every organisation hosting and spreading your content needs to make sure that they have proof of your permission. So it is perfectly legitimate for them wanting to be granted a license for doing with your content exactly what you want them to do with it, although not beyond that!"

Under French law, it is illegal to maintain a database of personal information without specifically justifying the need for such information to the CNIL. This is to protect privacy. Data which CS habitually collects of all members, such as member "race", is completely illegal under French law. I suppose the new terms could be interpreted to mean NO French resident could become a member. Many jurisdictions give people some sort of overview of data collected about them. The question is not only of law, but of leverage.



"I don't actually expect this question ever to be of practical relevance in a dispute between organisation and user."

As we saw with Google's StreetView which seemed completely reasonable under most US jurisprudence, multi-national corporations can be troubled by local law, in that case local German law.

Internet business which depends on involuntary collection and selling of data are finding themselves under considerable pressure. The situation will evolve rapidly in coming years. Businesses like Google and Facebook realize they are vulnerable and are going to spend fortunes lobbying.


Does CS's lower profile make it a less likely target, or more vulnerable? It may depend on how many CS rapes they cover up.

Posted August 30th, 2012 - 11:39 pm from Amsterdam, Netherlands
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Posted August 31st, 2012 - 1:45 am by from Washington, United States (Permalink)
So once (most of) the photos are deleted (I won't take the time to re upload), isn't there still the issue of them being stored on google? Anything one can do about that?

Posted August 31st, 2012 - 8:51 am by from Paris, France (Permalink)
"So once (most of) the photos are deleted (I won't take the time to re
upload), isn't there still the issue of them being stored on google?
Anything one can do about that?"


Actually the images are stored on http://s3.amazonaws.com/images.couchsurfing.us and whoever has the link to the uploaded images can access them even after you remove that link from your profile.

As for Google, search for your alias to see what comes up. At least that stuff doesn't seem to be owned by CouchSurfing.

Posted August 31st, 2012 - 3:20 am from Berlin, Germany
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Posted August 31st, 2012 - 9:47 am by from Dijon, France (Permalink)
"Street View the problem was an intrusion into the privacy rights of people who were NOT users and had NOT agreed to anything"

I was illustrating your point, that Americans seek to impose their legal system everywhere. US jurisprudence basically says there can be no privacy about something that is freely available to the public eye. It also illustrated the accompanying point I made about local French law, which also exists completely independently of a user "giving" permission. In both cases, user permission is legally considered irrelevant, just as giving permission to kill and eat me is considered irrelevant.

But yes, the US & European government cases against Facebook concerning privacy are also quite relevant.

Concerning the forecast demise of CS, even if investors decide to cut their losses, they will try to get the best price for CS "assets", even if it means a fire sale. That may mean CS being absorbed by an Airb&b or otherwise auctioned off. There is jurisprudence about what happens to personal data when a company is sold, and that may already apply to CS. I haven't investigated that, but there are publicized examples.

Posted August 31st, 2012 - 10:11 am from Berlin, Germany
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Posted August 30th, 2012 - 6:35 am by from Paris, France (Permalink)
"We have some exciting new changes planned for the website."

They want us to be "excited" about these changes, too? To make that happen, perhaps they could send us the same drugs they are on.

Posted August 26th, 2012 - 11:35 am by from Berlin, Germany (Permalink)
«You agree to (a) create a unique password that you do not use with any other online product or service; (b) provide accurate, truthful, current and complete information when creating an account; (c) maintain and promptly update your account information;»

Point (a) is just hilarious.
Points (b) and (c) mean that people saying, for instance, they are 119 years old are breaching the ToU? And what about 'complete'? Am I not allowed anymore to omit information I don't want to be public?

Also, according to the ToU, 'several people' profiles shouldn't be allowed: who is responsible for the information given?

Posted August 26th, 2012 - 12:04 pm by from Paris, France (Permalink)
"Please forgive me for not participating in this discussion. I have no interest in helping them correcting any mistakes."

Valid point which I fully understand. When was the last time they took advice from this group, though? :-)

"Point (a) is just hilarious."

They'd better be prepared for the tens of thousands of members who suddenly no longer remember their new "unique" passwords ;-). Or that they will have to terminate because they didn't change them and are now breaching the new terms of use.

"Points (b) and (c) mean that people saying, for instance, they are 119 years old are breaching the ToU?

That's a good point. 119 is not foreseen by the system (yet), but the former General Manager would then have been breaching the terms of use for years.

"And what about 'complete'? Am I not allowed anymore to omit information I don't want to be public?"

Another good point.

"Also, according to the ToU, 'several people' profiles shouldn't be allowed: who is responsible for the information given?"

Absolutely. And above all, they should never be "verified" unless as many credit cards are given and postcards sent as there are members on a profile.

Posted September 2nd, 2012 - 12:02 pm by from Paris, France (Permalink)
I have just uploaded this image to my profile to help create awareness for the terms of use issue:



It will probably become my main profile picture over the coming weeks if CS insists on shoving these terms down our throat.

Please use, link and distribute freely.

It is on CouchSurfing's Amazon server for eternity, worldwide, irrevocable, etc., at

http://s3.amazonaws.com/images.couchsurfing.us/223O5JK/16415374_l_be2632176223e3adadaaf50a03110bdd.jpg

For best visibility on the profile, upload it to the top level ("No Folder"), selecting "First". With the mess which the CS album system is that doesn't guarantee it will be the first image displayed, but it should end up close to the top.

You may also want to include the link to the terms of use in the caption field underneath the image:

http://www.couchsurfing.org/new_terms.html

Posted September 2nd, 2012 - 4:27 pm from Bielefeld, Germany
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Posted September 2nd, 2012 - 4:47 pm from Bielefeld, Germany
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Posted September 3rd, 2012 - 4:31 am from Macau, China
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Posted September 3rd, 2012 - 8:06 am from Amsterdam, Netherlands
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Posted September 3rd, 2012 - 8:19 am by from Paris, France (Permalink)
At least Microsoft points out what changes it is making (the law in some jurisdictions and good practice all others), while CS prefers to cover them up in pages of terms which they know few people will read and understand.

I see that more and more critics of the terms of use announce that their use will come to a term...

I suggest that those who plan to delete their profiles should empty it of anything they don't want CS to even theoretically own or have a license for, and then perhaps keep what is left to raise awareness for the various issues with CouchSurfing.

Posted September 3rd, 2012 - 8:34 am from Amsterdam, Netherlands
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Posted September 3rd, 2012 - 9:01 pm by from Athens, Greece (Permalink)
Hello all,

Sorry, I don't have time to follow the whole thread in detail. I am opposed too to this change, and for that reason I emailed policies@couchsurfing.com. This was their answer, in case anyone is interested.

Hi Vanessa,

No, the changes won't go into affect before that date. But also, we won't use your photographs without your permission except within the website. That particular term sounds quite intense. However, it's fairly standard for social networks. Essentially what it means in practice is that you grant us the right to display your content on our website. So your profile, for example, can be accessed by other members — we're the middleman, so we need the legal rights to display that information in whichever format is necessary.

Websites with the same or similar term include Pinterest, Tumblr, and even Idealist.org, to name just a few.

Of course, please do delete your photographs if that makes you feel more comfortable, that's why we publish these policies and alert members. I just wanted to clarify that we have no intention of poaching people's work!

Best,

Meredith Hutcheson

CouchSurfing Community Communications


Posted September 3rd, 2012 - 9:43 pm from Vila Velha, Brazil
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Posted September 3rd, 2012 - 10:59 pm by from Paris, France (Permalink)
Thanks Vanessa.

Translation:

"We ask for rights we don't need, just in case we might need them in the future, or just because that is what some others do. You must believe me, the head of the CS PR department, not the terms of use. We have no intentions to use these rights, just like we had no intentions to loot the non-profit assets, but the government forced us to do it and the nasty members who would have opposed the "privatization" would have tried to prevent it if we had done it honestly and openly. But you can trust us this time: No bad intentions, for now... ".

Sure. Since you have proven to be so trustworthy, do you want my credit card code, too, since you have no intention to use it?

If Facebook and Google can let me keep my rights, surely "socially responsible" CouchSurfing, "half way between non-profit and for-profit (quote Casey Fenton), can do it, to.

Posted September 4th, 2012 - 1:25 am by from Dijon, France (Permalink)
Fact-checking Meredith Hutcheson of KouchSurfing Kommunity Kommunications, my very first verification shows her to be very confused about truth.

Here is idealist.org's clause (which hasn't changed in years):
"Therefore, each User owns and is responsible for the content that s/he posts on our Site, including information that s/he publishes and makes available for other Users to view."
http://www.idealist.org/info/About/Terms

Pinterest:
"You retain all of your rights in all of the User Content you post to our Service."
http://pinterest.com/about/terms/

Tumblr
"Subscribers retain ownership of all intellectual property rights in their Subscriber Content,"
http://www.tumblr.com/policy/en/terms_of_service

Posted September 4th, 2012 - 6:45 am by from Paris, France (Permalink)
Great catch, David. Now let's hold them to meeting their objective, i.e. match those "fairly standard" terms on that point.

Posted September 4th, 2012 - 7:02 am from Bielefeld, Germany
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Posted September 4th, 2012 - 7:59 am from Vico Morcote, Switzerland
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Posted September 4th, 2012 - 10:38 am from Berlin, Germany
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Posted September 4th, 2012 - 10:48 am from Berlin, Germany
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Posted September 4th, 2012 - 4:39 pm by from Grenoble, France (Permalink)
We need to do something right now guys.

I have sent a message through the "contact us" form, under "dissatisfied", and specified some of the new terms of use excertps that I found inacceptable, asked for a refund and said I would communicate the implications of the terms of use to people around me.

I think we should all do this and other things, definitely mass communication to every couchsurfers is a priority right now.

Posted September 4th, 2012 - 4:42 pm from Lyon, France
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Posted September 4th, 2012 - 9:03 pm by from Athens, Greece (Permalink)
Well yeah I was gonna write an answer but I thought some people would like to make some comments, so I'll wait another couple of days and then answer.

As for getting a job with CS... actually, as Polyglot knows, I've tried to get a job with them - actually a couple so far - and will keep trying (though with less zest, perhaps, and without too much hope either). I am 100% certain that this will not change my personal view of what CS is, or was rather... I will still continue to host people - and surf whenever I have time. CS has changed, but in the end it's people who make CS what it is.

Or I'm just a daydreamer...

Posted September 4th, 2012 - 10:46 pm by from London, England (Permalink)
reading the link Trausic posted above (thanks!) I wonder: can they really delete your profile *without cause* if you have:

- paid to be verified
- donated in the past??/

Posted September 5th, 2012 - 8:51 am by from Paris, France (Permalink)
Vanessa,

Meredith and CouchSurfing obviously need a little help with understanding the terms they plan to have go into effect next week.

The good news is, CouchSurfing apparently doesn't need the rights they are asking for and just wants to go with what is fairly standard practice. So part of the problem is very easy to solve by replacing the planned terms of use with those of any of the examples they gave. Want to suggest that in your reply?

I know life is very tough in Greece at the moment, but I am not sure that working for these people would make it any better.

Posted September 5th, 2012 - 10:56 am from Bielefeld, Germany
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Posted September 5th, 2012 - 11:30 am from Berlin, Germany
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Posted September 5th, 2012 - 12:44 pm from Managua, Nicaragua
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Posted September 5th, 2012 - 12:44 pm from Managua, Nicaragua
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Posted September 5th, 2012 - 4:53 pm from Albuquerque, United States
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Posted September 6th, 2012 - 9:07 am by from Aachen, Germany (Permalink)
I'm lazy, and I am traveling atm.
I strongly assume this crap does not hold water in Europe. On the other hand, once they have my data, Europe won't stop them from using it elsewhere.

In any case, the intention alone deserves every kind of ass-kicking.

For now, my response is to post an excerpt of the new ToU on my profile. I recommend others to do the same.

Posted September 6th, 2012 - 2:15 pm by from Paris, France (Permalink)
Feisty Bill has taken the gloves off and pretended to answer the questions in the ambassadors group. Those he doesn't label as nonsense, or not making sense, that is.

http://www.couchsurfing.org/group_read.html?gid=2125&post=13062093#post13103695

If Bill was shocked at some of the questions and that people would challenge these outrageous terms, it seems just as shocking how this guy talks back at volunteers. There used to be a code of conduct for respectful, diplomatic communication for volunteers. Apparently the new amb community coordinator, with his real face, has a different approach. Do some yoga, Bill!

Meanwhile, I'll use the same clear language: What a moron not only for thinking that because reportedly only 50 people have written to policies@couchsuring.com means that very few people care, but actually priding himself in that. Apparently concerned users will have to be a lot more vocal to be heard. The EU complaint apparently did get their attention.

Good to see that there are a handful of bright ambs out there who aren't fooled or intimidated so easily.

Post removed.
Posted September 6th, 2012 - 2:15 pm by from Paris, France (Permalink)
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Posted September 6th, 2012 - 2:18 pm by from Paris, France (Permalink)
Sorry about the mistake in the above link - it was a copy/paste quote from Bill Loundy.

The correct link is policies@couchsurfing.com.

Posted September 6th, 2012 - 2:31 pm from Berlin, Germany
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Posted September 6th, 2012 - 2:47 pm by from Paris, France (Permalink)
His job description says:

"this job will require someone who is willing to do things that may have never been tried."

Among his responsibilities:

"* Help Ambassadors feel appreciated, acknowledged and enthusiastic about their roles.
* Proactively escalate issues, observations, opportunities, and insights to the Executive team."

Among the requirements:

"* You love helping people and find it rewarding to solve leadership and strategic problems.
* You are an independent, creative, and a self-starter person who excels at running things while keeping everyone inside and outside the company in the loop.
* You have strong leadership qualities and professional demeanor.
* You have excellent communication skills, both written and interpersonal.
* You have a positive can-do attitude and tireless work ethic."

Is a trial period customary in the data collection industry?

Posted September 6th, 2012 - 3:00 pm from Bielefeld, Germany
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Posted September 6th, 2012 - 3:10 pm from Albuquerque, United States
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Posted September 6th, 2012 - 11:42 pm by from Athens, Greece (Permalink)
I somehow feel glad I don't have Bill's job which I had also applied for (and not because of the crisis)...

Now on to deleting some pics. And writing that response.

Should I also add to my profile that since CS is a company I am considering to charge for the couch?....

Posted September 7th, 2012 - 12:24 am by from Athens, Greece (Permalink)
Having read a little more closely the ToU of those other websites, here is

Idealist

In order for you to share your information with others, Idealist needs your permission to reproduce your information on or through this Site. Therefore, under these Terms and Conditions, by submitting, posting or displaying any content to or on this Site, you agree to grant Idealist a non-exclusive, worldwide, assignable, sub-licensable, and royalty-free right that permits us to copy, distribute, publish, remove, retain, and use your content or information without any further consent, notice or compensation for the sole purpose of enabling Idealist to provide you with its Services in accordance with its Privacy Policy.

Additionally, with the objective of reaching more people and facilitating connections, you hereby grant Idealist the right to share published information from our Sites with other sites with which we have partnerships. Information published on our Site may become public information at the time of its distribution on other sites, via email alerts, RSS feeds, search engines, and other social media tools.

Pinterest

Subject to any applicable account settings you select, you grant us a non-exclusive, royalty-free, transferable, sublicensable, worldwide license to use, display, reproduce, re-pin, modify (e.g., re-format), re-arrange, and distribute your User Content on Pinterest for the purposes of operating and providing the Service(s) to you and to our other Users. Nothing in these Terms shall restrict Pinterest’s rights under separate licenses to User Content. Please remember that the Pinterest Service is a public platform, and that other Users may search for, see, use, and/or re-pin any User Content that you make publicly available through the Service.
Tumblr
When you transfer Subscriber Content to Tumblr through the Services, you give Tumblr a non-exclusive, worldwide, royalty-free, sublicensable, transferable right and license to use, host, store, cache, reproduce, publish, display (publicly or otherwise), perform (publicly or otherwise), distribute, transmit, modify, adapt (including, without limitation, in order to conform it to the requirements of any networks, devices, services, or media through which the Services are available), and create derivative works of (including, without limitation, by Reblogging, as defined below), such Subscriber Content. The rights you grant in this license are for the limited purpose of operating the Services in accordance with their functionality, improving the Services, and allowing Tumblr to develop new Services. The reference in this license to "derivative works" is not intended to give Tumblr itself a right to make substantive editorial changes or derivations, but does enable Tumblr Subscribers to redistribute Subscriber Content from one Tumblr blog to another in a manner that allows Subscribers to, e.g., add their own text or other Content before or after your Subscriber Content ("Reblogging").
...so it doesn't look like CS is the only one...

Posted September 7th, 2012 - 1:35 am from Managua, Nicaragua
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Posted September 7th, 2012 - 11:38 am by from Vienna, Austria (Permalink)
Yes, I mailed them my complaint too (under 'contact us').
Here is the rather brainless answer that was to be expected:

"Hello Irenaeus

Thank you for writing in to us about the recent changes to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. The reason for these changes are to keep up with legal developments here in the United States, as well as to make sure that our policies cover all of the new features that we are planning to introduce to the CouchSurfing community.

In order to display your content on CouchSurfing, such as your profile picture or group posts, we need your permission to do so. When you upload content to CouchSurfing (like photos or group posts) you grant us the right to use it in various ways, such as linking to it and displaying it to other members.

When you send us a Submission such as a photo or a story, we might choose to write a blog post about it or post it to our Facebook, Twitter or other social media pages. If you send us a CouchSurfing design, we may make it into a product on the CS Shop. Please don't send us anything that you would prefer to keep private.

If you have any further comments and questions feel free to email us back at policies@couchsurfing.com.

Happy Surfing!

F******
Adelaide, Australia"



any suggestions of how to write my next complaint (I want to flood them a little) ?
that I give a F*** on US-law but that it is illegal under EU-law ?
anyone who knows about this ?

Posted September 7th, 2012 - 11:53 am by from Paris, France (Permalink)
"In order to display your content on CouchSurfing, such as your profile picture or group posts, we need your permission to do so."

I am not a lawyer but it seems to me that in order to display my content all they need is the right (e.g. a license) to do so, not, however, the irrevocable right for any use they could come up with, nor a perpetual waiver of my own rights to my content.

Over in Ambs Public someone brought up the issue of CouchSurfing's need to the rights of people represented in promotional videos. This has nothing to do with the terms of use for the website or other services. If people want to show their face in CS advertising or CS wants to use them that way, they'll have to sign a separate, specific release for that use and it is up to these people to decide what rights they want to waive. CS doesn't have to have all 5 million registered users to waive all imaginable rights irrevocably just because a dozen want to help promote CS on the internent and have their ten seconds of glory in the process. There are enough willing CouchSurfing adicts out their to use for that purpose to make a general release for the automatic consent of millions of unsuspecting users unnecessary, inappropriate and way over the top.

Posted September 7th, 2012 - 12:19 pm from Bielefeld, Germany
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Posted September 7th, 2012 - 12:42 pm from Berlin, Germany
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Posted September 7th, 2012 - 6:45 am by from Paris, France (Permalink)
"it doesn't look like CS is the only one..."

If you look yet more closely, you will see that CouchSurfing International, Inc. is the only one trying to trample users' rights by asking for a perpetual, irrevocable license for any use they could come up with although they claim they won't ever need it, whereas the other three ask for

- a license for the limited purpose of operating the Services ... for the sole purpose of enabling Idealist to provide you with its Services (Idealist),

- permission to reproduce your information on or through this Site (Tumblr)

- a licence for the purposes of operating and providing the Service(s) (Pinterest)?

If someone knows any other social network with such abusive terms of use, please post them so that we can see what kind of people CouchSurfing is trying to emulate, or if on the contrary they are trying to write a completely new chapter in user rights abuse.

Post removed.
Posted September 7th, 2012 - 8:03 am by from Bielefeld, Germany (Permalink)
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Posted September 7th, 2012 - 8:05 am from Bielefeld, Germany
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Posted September 7th, 2012 - 8:07 am from Bielefeld, Germany
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Posted September 7th, 2012 - 9:51 am by from Athens, Greece (Permalink)
Discovolante: I see your point, yes you are right.
In any case as Meredith (policies@couchsurfing.org) can't answer a bunch of questions I emailed her with, I shall now be expecting an email from the legal department...

Posted September 7th, 2012 - 10:02 am from Berlin, Germany
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Posted September 7th, 2012 - 10:13 am from Vico Morcote, Switzerland
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Posted September 7th, 2012 - 11:29 am by from Dijon, France (Permalink)
"Ceterum censeo: Furthermore, Couchsurfing needs an edit button. In the 21st century, no internet user should look at his typos without having a chance to edit them."

Ah yes, the Romney-CS-management generation, say anything you want that you think will get traction, then just claim you never said it when it comes back to haunt you.

I think there is something to be said for history not being rewritten.

Posted September 7th, 2012 - 11:43 am from Bielefeld, Germany
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Posted September 7th, 2012 - 11:59 am by from London, England (Permalink)
Question: what precisely could CS (or anyone) realistically want to do with my identity?

I know this is so that the data can be sold in bulk to someone else but what would that someone else do with it? I mean, I've seen all the ludicrous scenarios posted that these ToU theoretically would allow them to do (like posting your face onto a porn star or model's body, sticking your name on top and claiming your 'endorsement' for haemorrhoid cream or incontinence pads or supereasy crablice remover) but what, realistically, SHOULD we actually be worried about as a plausible future scenario? Are there any recent real-world examples of similar cases?\

Sorry if the above is garbled,I've been up all night.

Posted September 7th, 2012 - 12:39 pm by from Paris, France (Permalink)
Niall, I hope it was not the ToU which kept you up all night ;-)

Realistically, hard to say, since this is CS where everything is awesome and different. Once the trust has been betrayed, all kinds of scenarios can be imagined. One is to combine Bluedragon's extremely valuable dataset with your image and run it through image recognition software such as that of their buddy Facebook, and there an anonymous set of data becomes one with a face and a real name, along with all the other information about that face and name on the internet or some other database. Realistic? Probably just a matter of time.

Posted September 7th, 2012 - 12:45 pm from Berlin, Germany
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Posted September 7th, 2012 - 1:47 pm by from Dijon, France (Permalink)
"Question: what precisely could CS (or anyone) realistically want to do with my identity?"

"User content" refers to everything you transmit to CS.


They want access and free use of all hs data because they intend to sell marketing information at
sometime in the future. They don't know how, but they want to keep open
every possibility, including selling your address and phone number,
email address and credit card information.


They don't necessarily need to sell your credit card number (if that
happens to be illegal - if not, they reserve that "right"), they just
sell the information about what kind of credit card you have, for
example, which gives information about your buying power, etc. They use
the email and physical addresses to connect you with other information
about you available from other sources. CS probably won't manipulate
this data themselves, but they want to have the "right" to sell this and
any possible data about you to others.


The thing here is that CS has written terms which go far beyond those of
any other commercial site anyone has been able to identify. This is
attempting to be a game changer.
This is partly because they do not yet
know anything about how they will specifically sell us out. They want to
keep all options open, including a direct tie-in, for example, with
AirB&B (which has some of the same major investors).


The only reason for Terms this open-ended is because they are reserving he "right" to do anything.

Google's working business plan and its net worth - and especially its hopes for growth - are all based on this idea of assembling data about individuals and being able to therefore target marketing to them. As is Facebook's. CS quite obviously hopes to find an important (140,000,000 members said Fenton) "nook" in this market, likely based in part on the lucrative travel market.

These terms could be summarized as "anything we can get away with". There does not seem to be a single clause which limits CS power.

Posted September 7th, 2012 - 3:44 pm by from London, England (Permalink)
yup, thank you all for your comments.

Posted September 13th, 2012 - 4:53 pm from Berlin, Germany
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Posted September 13th, 2012 - 7:15 pm by from Cambridge, England (Permalink)
I thought about this as well.

Interestingly I received an email today from the website that's hosting the CouchSurfing petition (Avaaz.org) about the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreements. The last round of negotiations ends in 3 days or something.

Here's a link to the petition they want people to sign (has more info):
http://www.avaaz.org/en/stop_the_corporate_death_star/?bZAnxdb&v=17866

Is it just a coincidence that CS Terms of Use change (and become incredibly invasive, illegal) around the time these negotiations come to a close? It's some really nasty stuff too, corporations conspiring together to escape government regulations, even threaten them! It's like turning the law upside down. And there are some privacy implications too. Though, I don't know all the details.

Another thing I thought about (not sure if it's been mentioned..), but complaining here might be a good idea: http://www.bcorporation.net/complaints . I will read through the B Corporation documents again to see what, if anything, CouchSurfing are in breach of.

Oh, and a third thought (I'm on a roll today), don't these new Terms of Use, and that press release above regarding privacy issues (and anything else we can find), don't they deserve mention over at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CouchSurfing ? I'm happy to do it myself, but I thought I'd ask here first. I was thinking another section under History? Or maybe a new paragraph in the overview? We could even reformat the whole page to give precedence to the corruption of the non-profit community effort and the introduction of illegal Terms of Use that claims irrevocable rights to use and sublicense (etc, etc) members' names, voices, likenesses and identities..?

Posted September 13th, 2012 - 9:58 pm from Vico Morcote, Switzerland
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Posted September 13th, 2012 - 10:53 pm from Tourlaville, France
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Posted September 18th, 2012 - 8:20 pm by from Vienna, Austria (Permalink)
Here an example of how publicly available information is used for tailored campaigns.

FT-article: Inside Obama's HQ

"...By the time a campaign is making a decision about how it might reach a particular voter, they already have a very sophisticated profile of how that person might respond to a particular type of message. They might, says Rasiej, to take one example, have someone in Colorado who voted in the last election and signed up to their website, but doesn’t visit it very often and has not donated.
Through publicly available information, they know that voter is a single mother earning $60,000 a year, living in an area with few people making that much money. Then they can discover that she also posts on a blog for single mothers concerned about healthcare costs, or that she tweeted about environmental products, or that the majority of her public posts on Facebook or Twitter are about green issues. The campaign then sorts through these personal variables with their custom-built algorithms to construct voter profiles.
“So, with her email address, they may contact her directly with a message from Michelle Obama only touting environmental issues as the reason that she should support the President’s campaign,” says Rasiej. “They can get down to literally that kind of detail, and then as time goes on they keep feeding new information back in.” ...“We’ve learnt 100-fold from 2008. We can put stuff in front of every American, and that is incredible.” "


Some may find this exciting, I find it creepy and I don't want to imagine what (profitable) profiles can be created by datamining through all CS-profiles.
Or is it that only we in Europe are too keen on our privacy ?

Posted September 18th, 2012 - 9:48 pm from Tourlaville, France
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Posted September 7th, 2012 - 1:26 pm by from Dijon, France (Permalink)
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Posted September 7th, 2012 - 1:28 pm by from Dijon, France (Permalink)
"Editing must not nessessarily mean that the old post disappears into digital Nirvana. Some internet
forums come with an edit function that says "This post has been edited
(time+date)" and provide a link to the original message. If interested,
every user can see what has been changed. :) "


Though I participate in literally dozens of online fora, I've never seen
this possibility. But yes, at first glance it would answer my concerns.
It doesn't seem to be standard practice on editable sites, but it
should be.


BTW, on CS it is now possible to "delete" your old post, making it disappear from public view, and repost
with any and all changes you wish to make. I don't think it is a good
general solution, but I do use it myself for typos that are embarrassing
or non-functional.

[AS I have just done with this post, though the only change is to add this aside. People who receive posts by email will have the original post, but others will have no access to it.]

Posted September 7th, 2012 - 1:44 pm by from Vienna, Austria (Permalink)
"BTW, on CS it is now possible to "delete" your old post...
[AS I have just done with this post, though the only change is to add this aside. People who receive posts by email will have the original post, but others will have no access to it.]"

this had to be, eh ? ;)
but me too I preferred the old times when embarassing posts were quite impossible to erase, it gave some good material for satirical comments.

Posted September 10th, 2012 - 12:23 pm from Tourlaville, France
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Posted September 10th, 2012 - 9:31 pm by from Paris, France (Permalink)
An important "clarification" from Slippery Bill:

"We're not sharing member information with any third parties for
marketing purposes right now. We don't have any current plans to work
with such parties. It wouldn't make sense for me to try to predict the
future, so I won't guess about who we might eventually work with, or
how. Nobody knows that at this point. As I have said many times, right
now we're focused on (i) improving the site and (ii) building community."


If that was meant to reassure anyone, I believe it has failed miserably.

If it doesn't make sense to predict the future, and there are no plans or nobody knows what they are, then it makes no sense to propose or to sign these terms of use and that privacy policy "right now".

Posted September 10th, 2012 - 9:55 pm from Berlin, Germany
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Posted September 11th, 2012 - 12:32 am from Tourlaville, France
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Posted September 11th, 2012 - 12:46 am from Managua, Nicaragua
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Posted September 11th, 2012 - 6:35 am from Bielefeld, Germany
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Posted September 11th, 2012 - 1:49 pm by from Cambridge, England (Permalink)
Quick questions: do we have a place to talk that can't be censored? Like a forum somewhere not owned by CS (or preferably any data-miner)? If not, does anyone want to start one?

To make a point about an earlier reply from CS, the fact that other services have Terms that claim sublicensable and irrevocable rights to your identity, likeness etc (which they don't), is in my opinion moot. Which of those services require your name, email and house address, has photographs of you, keeps almost permanent categorised records of your travel plans, locations, conversations, profile information, as well as all in-person meetings with other members of the community arranged through the site, and afterwards, your experience during that meeting, and then out of all those people, the friends you make, the people you really trust, and those you contact and maybe even meet with again? It's rather absurd to compare this to anything! Here in the UK the Home Office would kill to have this kind of information, never mind irrevocable rights to use and license it, along with your identity, your voice and your likeness. For the most part though, they are just simply not allowed.

Posted September 11th, 2012 - 9:00 pm by from Brussels, Belgium (Permalink)
"do we have a place to talk that can't be censored? Like a forum somewhere not owned by CS (or preferably any data-miner)?"

Try http://www.bewelcome.org/

Posted September 11th, 2012 - 11:31 pm by from London, England (Permalink)
There's always our sister group, Brainstorm-Be Welcome

http://www.bewelcome.org/groups/267


but I think that this group remains the best place on the web to discuss hospex issues. Migrations rarely carry everyone along with them, so why not wait until we see actual instances of censorship by CS?

Posted September 12th, 2012 - 8:33 am from Vico Morcote, Switzerland
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Posted September 14th, 2012 - 9:25 am by from Cambridge, England (Permalink)
By that point it might be too late. I think it's best to have at the very least a place set up, that is ready, in advance of anything unsightly like censorship happening.

I guess I asked because I felt a little uncomfortable exploring some of the thoughts and doubts I had had about CouchSurfing on CouchSurfing's own website, and so I didn't mention them.

5.1 Member Content Restrictions.
You agree not to post ... Member Content that we believe, in our sole discretion:
(a) is unlawful, libellous, defamatory, harassing, threatening..

From my understanding, libel laws in the US have been used as justification for legal action, due quite simply to statement of facts about a company or their activities. Also, the general definition of unlawful is not limited to illegal, it can mean against any rules of a specified group or situation, including moral rules. I don't know about the legal definition (especially when used in Terms of questionable legality).

That group on BeWelcome looks a good place. I'd suggest (to everyone) using https though.. so, just to have it written and clickable:

https://www.bewelcome.org/groups/267

Posted September 14th, 2012 - 10:10 am from Berlin, Germany
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Posted September 14th, 2012 - 10:13 am by from Cambridge, England (Permalink)
Ok, so that was in reply to Bluedragon from before. I thought these replies were threaded, sorry folks.

I will add though, that I looked at the B-Labs B-Corporation documents again, and I swear they have changed since last year. There was more to it, something that resembled Terms, but unless it's now hidden behind this page, which requires registration, all it is is a rather flimsy looking (and glossy) Declaration of Interdependence. It still might be worth complaining to them though.

And also, I was thinking again last night. Someone touched on this before, but I want to make a point of it..

Verification. Many people have been claiming for a long time that it is pointless, and does not improve the safety of CouchSurfing. My thought was that, perhaps a purpose of verification was to increase the value of CouchSurfing's user data, by authenticating addresses, or at the very least, providing some general cross referenced location data (with IPs). Add to that bank/ credit card details (are these processed by a 3rd party?), and then the way CouchSurfing quite heavily promote getting your account verified.. Doesn't quite settle my stomach at all.

However, I think my data is more valuable to start with as I don't use Facebook, or any other social network. And it's for the exact reason that, the rights CouchSurfing have now taken, might someday be claimed by that social network. It's ironic. I chose to trust CouchSurfing with often confidential information, information I would never have given to Facebook through just normal use of their service, and Facebook now seems a safe haven in comparison.

Posted September 14th, 2012 - 10:40 am by from Dijon, France (Permalink)
Logic brings the conclusion that the essential purpose for CS of "verification" was to produce $6+ million dollars. If the goal had been essentially to increase safety, they would have aimed at having more than 8% of people use it, either by making the fee nominal or making it obligatory. It was the ONLY significant revenue of CS, paying Fenton's salary and perks from the beginning.

Posted September 14th, 2012 - 6:12 pm by from Paris, France (Permalink)
"
Date of Last Revision: 13 July 2011
Terms of Use
Note: CouchSurfing is updating our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. These new policies will go into effect on September 21, 2012."

Second toughts and slightly worried after all, after the bad press?

Posted September 14th, 2012 - 6:41 pm from Managua, Nicaragua
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Posted September 14th, 2012 - 6:42 pm from Berlin, Germany
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Posted September 14th, 2012 - 7:26 pm from Berlin, Germany
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Posted September 14th, 2012 - 8:04 pm from Siegburg, Germany
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Posted September 14th, 2012 - 8:27 pm by from Paris, France (Permalink)
Confused Bill ("more recently decided that law school & life at a firm isn't for me") adding more and more confusion with weird statements. I'll disregard that nonsense about terms/policy and Safe Harbor going into effect simultaneously (and allegedly already planned, only later).

I'll just hold CS to this:

"we want everyone to feel comfortable about the way we handle data"

Just do it!!!

Posted September 14th, 2012 - 8:41 pm from Managua, Nicaragua
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Posted September 14th, 2012 - 8:53 pm by from Paris, France (Permalink)
Obviously because they never planned to adhere to these as they are incompatible with the terms of use and privacy policy they want to impose.

Posted September 14th, 2012 - 9:00 pm from Managua, Nicaragua
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Posted September 14th, 2012 - 9:29 pm by from Paris, France (Permalink)
They have never experienced difficulties telling the boldest of lies. Actually, I believe they do not know right from wrong and the truth from lies.

The evolution of the terms of use over the years is documented here by the way:

CouchSurfing Knowledge Base - terms of use

Posted September 14th, 2012 - 9:57 pm from Tourlaville, France
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Posted September 15th, 2012 - 7:49 am from Amsterdam, Netherlands
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Posted September 15th, 2012 - 9:18 am from Macau, China
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Posted September 15th, 2012 - 10:48 am from Vico Morcote, Switzerland
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Posted September 15th, 2012 - 11:54 am by from Dijon, France (Permalink)
Answer from the CouchSurfing Legal Team
Received yesterday, Sept 14, 22:19 CET
fast note: point 7 - "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."
Then there is no way to practically split them, am I right?

No, I don't think so. Without taking into consideration US and California law, which may place other constraints on CS action, the relationship between the ToU and the "policy" seems clear to me from a legal point of view:
Users are asked to agree to the ToU. These terms give virtually unlimited power to CS.
The Privacy Policy is a separate non-binding temporary statement of what CS intends to do for now. CS itself has already stated that in the future they may operate differently. Members are not asked to "agree" to and CS is not legally obliged to follow the Privacy Policy, or at best can change it unilaterally when they want.

CS has already stated that both can be changed unilaterally without notice at any time to become immediately effective. The ToU establish that there is no limit to their power, in a prior defense against any claim in court against them doing things they had not mentioned before.

This does not mean that in court CS could not come up again problems of misrepresentation, etc, depending on the laws in effect at the moment.

But the essential problem as I see it is that members WILL NOT KNOW how their data is being exploited, because this will never become transparent. The situation is similar today with Google (even if their terms are less draconian than CS), no one knows what data they are collecting about us and how they are tying it together - we simply know that for now they use this mostly simply for targeting advertising that appears on Google pages. CS has already said it can connect your CS data with any other data they get from another source (in the US for example, it is possible to find out the value of the house someone owns from public sources, and connect that with information on CS that you love cars or bicycles - and sell this very-specific data to high-end merchants).

This situation of keeping the member ignorant makes it virtually impossible to make any kind of legal case against them, because not only is there no available proof, but it is even impossible to know on what grounds they could be sued by individuals, nor a way for government to show there was sufficient proof of misdoing to legally obtain access to their documents.

That is why company like Google and Yahoo have most feared government action that would prohibit certain conditions and practices. Their "responsiveness" to organized consumer rebellion has mostly been to prevent government action with teeth in it.

But perhaps just as important, ALL the "clarifications" the "CS legal team" has written above could and should be included in the ToU, as they are for other companies. As it is, they are not represented as being contractual, and have no legal standing in themselves.

As CS has already repeatedly done on questions just as important, there is nothing stopping them from claiming "Oh, we wanted to do that, but situations have changed." If their statement is honest, it should be added to the ToU, with the minor changes in phrasing which would be necessary. Other companies do include such language in their ToU.

Posted September 15th, 2012 - 12:19 pm by from Cambridge, England (Permalink)
I agree, I think it's important to not take what they say as anything more than trickery (PR/propaganda), and keep our eyes fixed on the terms of the contract they want us to agree to.

Posted September 15th, 2012 - 12:46 pm from Berlin, Germany
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Posted September 15th, 2012 - 2:13 pm by from Vienna, Austria (Permalink)
"...how little they really know about this whole area."

...which brings us back to the questionable quality of our C$-management.
Plus your idea that they want to sink CS in the long run (more or less consciously).

Stupidity paired with money IS a fear inducing combination.

Posted September 15th, 2012 - 3:25 pm by from Marburg, Germany (Permalink)
Weird!!
CS censored my message?!


Posted September 17th, 2012 - 12:39 am by from Gent, Belgium (Permalink)
If someone does not like this terms and wants still to stay on cs has another option, just don't provide content on CS and put on your picture a nice label: "I am not for sale"

:-)

Posted September 11th, 2012 - 3:32 pm by from Cambridge, England (Permalink)
And also, I agree with Pickwick's comment about how we shouldn't leave CS. I think that it might even be an objective, to weed out all possible dissenters by introducing absolutely unacceptable Terms of Use. Anyone that opposed incorporation will surely leave CS in light of such invasions of privacy, and the people that don't care, will carry on not caring, generally. And these are the people they want to have as members, not people that hold them to accountability etc, but those that surrender irrevocable rights to use and license of their name, likeness, voice and identity, without a second thought.

Or is it that someone is just trying to destroy CouchSurfing, and the money invested in it was meaningless..?

Or even, maybe this is just another Public Relations stunt, whereby two weeks in they admit their wrongdoings, say 'we listened to you and..', change their invasive excessive terms, then we all praise the compassionate, caring, socially responsible Couchsurfing, Inc., that listens to its members.



Posted September 12th, 2012 - 5:13 pm by from Isabela Island, Ecuador (Permalink)
I'll stick around CS.
I have little to no faith in the illusion that, what i (or anyone) post (or create, or buy, or share, etc) online (or anywhere) EVER remains my "personal property".
...Furthermore, in 5.3 of CS's new terms it's stated that "You represent and warrant that (a) you own and control all of the rights to the Member Content that you post or you otherwise have the right to post such Member Content to the Services". That should make the digital "personal property" believers a bit more warm and cozy.

I signed up with CS with the understanding that it was an open, growing, sharing, giving, and mostly public, global community. The hipster/ old-school idea of "I knew 'em before they were famous / sold out", gives me no added feeling of entitlement. CS is a private entity in itself which has been so gracious as to share itself [and to adapt to it's members (past and present) desires]... Now it's "all grown up" and needs to protect itself and its members legally in the bureaucratic world of thick and endless legal BS, this means that they must write up long winded, jargon filled "terms of service" and "privacy policies". All social networks have these, and they will all change with time, and get more confusing, and less humane as the organization grows (this seems to be the pattern). Bet on BeWelcome.org and the rest doing the same thing in the future.

Why be afraid? ... Am i missing something here?
A picture of you isn't "you", it's just a picture. "But they may use it to sell pepsi!" ... and you went through soo much trouble buying non labeled clothing, and shopping at the local co-op, and voting for third party politicians, and praying to buddha so that you could remain an individual in this world... good on ya. Your freedom of expression still remains. Share what you wish to share. Keep private what you wish to keep private. -- online or other wise. This go's triple to fear mongers.

Then again after all, what do i know? - nothing, that's what -
Much love to all you world travelers and home bodies CSer's or not,
~g

Posted September 12th, 2012 - 5:40 pm from Bielefeld, Germany
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Posted September 12th, 2012 - 5:44 pm from Berlin, Germany
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Posted September 12th, 2012 - 6:12 pm by from Berlin, Germany (Permalink)
@Gregory.

It seems that you have missed quite a few discussions on this subject:

1. «in 5.3 of CS's new terms it's stated that "You represent and warrant that (a) you own and control all of the rights to the Member Content that you post or you otherwise have the right to post such Member Content to the Services". That should make the digital "personal property" believers a bit more warm and cozy.»

It is actually stated that you are waiving any right you have to everything above, and of course you must own the rights to your stuff before you graciously give them to CS.

2. «CS is a private entity in itself which has been so gracious as to share itself [and to adapt to it's members (past and present) desires]»

I can't remember a single instance when CS management adapted to the members' desires, but feel free to correct me.

3. «Now it's "all grown up" and needs to protect itself and its members legally in the bureaucratic world of thick and endless legal BS, this means that they must write up long winded, jargon filled "terms of service" and "privacy policies"»

Here CS is just trying to defend itself. Not a single line in the ToU is in favour of the members. Actually, it is clearly written that they can change the rules at any moment without notifications, so they don't even have to abide to their own rules.

4. «All social networks have these, and they will all change with time»

Feel free to go and check Google, Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, Pinterest and Wordpress Terms of Use (just to cite the ones that are already been posted in CS forums). You will discover that all of them say something on the lines of «you give us licence to your content for the purpose of ...» and this licence usually ends with the termination of the account or after a «reasonable time». Only CS—so far—is asking for perpetual, irrevocable rights on our data for any purpose, including without limitation your name, likeness, voice or identity.

This licence is outrageous under any standard.

5. «Bet on BeWelcome.org and the rest doing the same thing in the future»

Of course you don't know the bylaws of BeWelcome. I'll leave it as an exercise for the reader ;-)

On the other hand, what happened so far with 'the rest', is that they changed their license to give the users more rights and more respect to their privacy (Facebook even sent an apology to the members). Most of the times they were obliged to do so, for example by the European Commission (Google, Microsoft).

6. «Why be afraid? ... Am i missing something here?»

Well, I guess you missed this part: «you hereby grant us a perpetual, worldwide, irrevocable, non-exclusive, royalty-free and fully sublicensable license to use, reproduce, display, perform, adapt, modify, create derivative works from, distribute, have distributed and promote such Member Content in any form, in all media now known or hereinafter created and for any purpose, including without limitation the right to use your name, likeness, voice or identity

I think people have all the rights to be afraid.

Ah, by the way, the new licence obviously applies to all the information that was ever in the server, because nothing is ever deleted from the database.

Ciao ciao,
Piergi

Posted September 12th, 2012 - 6:40 pm by from Paris, France (Permalink)
Gregory G: "Am i missing something here?"

Yes, just about everything. Let us know it anything is unclear after reading the preceding post or any of the countless others explaining the issues.

Posted September 12th, 2012 - 8:23 pm by from Berlin, Germany (Permalink)
I have just received the BeWelcome newsletter.

Just to show that a better world is indeed possible, I paste here one paragraph as a reference:

«In the past we had a mandatory address field on signup. This has been changed as now we only require your country and city (or region). From now on you can edit your profile and erase your address if you wish. You can always leave it there if you like and choose whether to show it on your profile or not. We hope this change is better for your privacy and gives you more freedom to choose wich information you leave online.»

Feels like home :-)

Posted September 13th, 2012 - 11:04 am by from Dijon, France (Permalink)
The statement from the German federal government agency makes it clear the new
ToU is not legal in Europe. Since the ToU expressively says CS members
CANNOT accept the ToU in countries where it is illegal, we now know that
no European resident can be a member of CouchSurfing.



http://www.bfdi.bund.de/DE/Oeffentlichkeitsarbeit/Pressemitteilungen/2012/18_CouchSurfing.html?nn=408908

Posted September 13th, 2012 - 11:15 am by from Dijon, France (Permalink)
The statement from the German federal government agency makes it clear the new ToU is not legal in Europe. Since the ToU expressly states CS members CANNOT accept the ToU in countries where it is illegal, we now know that no European resident can be a member of CouchSurfing.





http://www.bfdi.bund.de/DE/Oeffentlichkeitsarbeit/Pressemitteilungen/2012/18_CouchSurfing.html?nn=408908

Posted September 13th, 2012 - 12:11 pm by from Vienna, Austria (Permalink)
That's good news for a change, isn't it ?

Those germans... they can be quick and efficient, jealousy must grant them that ;)

Posted September 13th, 2012 - 1:24 pm from Berlin, Germany
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Posted September 13th, 2012 - 2:08 pm by from Vienna, Austria (Permalink)
from the Vienna-group on the same topic:

"in Austria the Datenschutzkommission confirmed that they received my request, but the responsible person will return to work only tomorrow"

talking about being quick and efficient... we ARE in Austria here / mir san in Wean, des braucht sei Zeit.
and back to work on Friday ? Certainly not.

Posted September 13th, 2012 - 3:41 pm from Tourlaville, France
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Posted September 13th, 2012 - 4:12 pm from Berlin, Germany
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Posted September 13th, 2012 - 4:23 pm from Berlin, Germany
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Posted September 13th, 2012 - 1:50 pm from Berlin, Germany
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Posted September 14th, 2012 - 5:36 am from Macau, China
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Posted September 14th, 2012 - 6:29 am from Tourlaville, France
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Posted September 17th, 2012 - 2:24 am from Macau, China
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Posted September 17th, 2012 - 3:59 am from Philadelphia, United States
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Posted September 17th, 2012 - 11:35 am from Berlin, Germany
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Posted September 17th, 2012 - 2:32 pm from Tourlaville, France
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Posted September 17th, 2012 - 2:57 pm from Berlin, Germany
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Posted September 18th, 2012 - 11:05 pm from San Francisco, United States
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Posted September 19th, 2012 - 12:08 am from Tourlaville, France
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Posted September 19th, 2012 - 7:10 am by from Paris, France (Permalink)
Gabriel Stempinski: "Am I the only one that thinks you are all making a really REALLY big deal out of pretty much nothing."

No, your ambassador boss and the guy with the monkey also think like you.

One of the people who don't agree with you is the German Data Protection Commissioner who probably knows the subject matter a bit better than you.

Posted September 19th, 2012 - 7:40 am by from Dijon, France (Permalink)


"there's really nothing particularly different or more dastardly in this TOU than that of any other for-profit social network or online service that houses user content."



Gabriel, I believe you're new to the group. We have been running a contest to try to find another site with more egregious ToU than those proposed by CS. So far, there are no winners, even though dozens of sites have been checked.



But perhaps you have something to back up your claim? And collect your prize?



If you are willing to learn something, reading the previous posts here will explain why these ToU are exceptionally intolerable, with comparisons between the CS Terms and those of many major sites, including those CS employees falsely claimed were similar.



Educate yourself. Ignorance is not an effective argument.

Posted September 19th, 2012 - 8:31 am by from Athens, Greece (Permalink)
Not sure whether this will add to the conversation, but I'm pasting here Meredith's and Cameron's further answers to my further questions (that are too many to list)

Meredith -

I completely understand, and appreciate your concerns. I'm going to have to pass you on to our general counsel, as I don't want to misspeak — I have my own understanding of the policies, but I'm (clearly) not a lawyer so I can't make definitive statements as you request. I speak only from my own knowledge. Our lawyer can give you a better read on the specifics of the policy

Cameron

Sorry to switch people on you, but Meredith flagged your message for me to answer. I can certainly understand your concern about the Section 5.3 member license. As Meredith explained, the license under Section 5.3 gives us the ability to do things like display your name, pictures and other content on the website and through other CouchSurfing products as we develop them. It is written in a broad way so that as we develop new features and services, we don't have to update our policies at every turn. However, this license does not give us the ability to do whatever we want with your personal information. We cannot do anything with your information that is not clearly explained in our Privacy Policy. I would encourage you to take a look through that Policy here: http://www.couchsurfing.com/new_privacy and let me know if you have any further questions. Member privacy is very important to us.

(I followed with a very long email explaining that he hadn't answered any of my specific questions)

Sorry for the slow reply. If I read your email right, you raise two main concerns:

1) We don't state explicitly that members retain ownership in the content that they post to the website.

This is a very good point, and I'm sorry that we weren't clearer about that. However, it is true for CouchSurfing just as it is for the other companies that you listed (Pinterest, Tumblr, Idealist) - members retain ownership of everything that they upload to the website. This is true because the nature of a license is just to give the recipient permission to use that information, but it does not transfer any ownership to beyond that. For us, you are giving us permission to use the content that you upload (for the reasons that I explained earlier), but you still own this content and are welcome to do whatever you like with it.

2) We may share your information with third party providers

The section of the Privacy Policy that you have highlighted allows us to share information where necessary to third party providers, such as contractors and consultants who we sometimes hire to do work for us. To give you an example, when a member gets verified, we have a third party service provider send out the verification post card. In order to do that, the service provider will need that member's address in order to deliver the post card appropriately. This section of the privacy policy allows that to happen.

Hopefully that makes sense and helps address your questions. Sorry again for the delay in my response, but thank you for all your contributions to CS as a volunteer and active member.

No answer to my later email saying that I'm not sure I want to contribute further as a volunteer :P

Yeah Polyglot, I'm more than glad that I'm not Bill.

Greetings from a sunny Athens!

Posted September 19th, 2012 - 8:49 am by from Paris, France (Permalink)
"It is written in a broad way so that as we develop new features and services, we don't have to update our policies at every turn."

Kind of contradicts that other promise, that you will be asked and given the chance to opt out, doesn't it? And therefore the Safe Harbour Principles which CS now says they want to adhere to, as I understand them.

What better way to let people know what they are signing at any given moment than just ask for what they need, and then update and notify the changes as CS deems them necessary?

Where in the CS terms of use is the part about ownership which is supposed to be the same as "Pinterest, Tumblr, Idealist"?

And how about "submissions", which aren't defined precisely, and about which the terms say "CouchSurfing shall own exclusive rights, including all intellectual property rights, and shall be entitled to the unrestricted use and dissemination of Submissions for any purpose, commercial or otherwise."

Posted September 19th, 2012 - 10:15 am from Albuquerque, United States
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Posted September 19th, 2012 - 10:32 am by from Paris, France (Permalink)
"i would really like copies of all my posts i have made - anybody able to direct me how i can easily do so? At least how i can search easily among all the ones i have made?"

Someone would have to write a program to extract all messages from the list of your posts which you find at

http://www.couchsurfing.org/group_posts_user.html

similar to the program written by Sofiane for "deleting" (deactivating?) all these posts (http://www.couchsurfing.org/group_read.html?gid=45507&post=13165550#post13178424). Actually that program, which I haven't used, may do what you are looking for.

Posted September 19th, 2012 - 11:14 am by from Paris, France (Permalink)
Little autocorrection: The script was written by Souliane and it can be found on his site at

http://souliane.blogspot.com/2012/09/scripts-for-couchsurfing.html

Posted October 4th, 2012 - 4:50 am from Macau, China
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Posted September 19th, 2012 - 4:08 am by from San Diego, United States (Permalink)
I was asked by a Rural Couchsurfing member for some advice. Rather than post it there, where it is less relevant, I'll post it here and put a link over there.

*********************************************************

There are two questions here: One has to do with legal permissions, which I can't answer with any authority because I haven't researched all the legal documents we've been provided over time. The other has to do with what we might call a "social contract", i.e., the body of understandings and expectations that have developed and evolved during the life of the organization. The latter can affect legality, but it also has its own power.

If an organization has always said in its legal disclosures that there are no limits on its authority, and acted like that is true, then it's hard to argue that the new policy actually implementing unlimited authority is illegal per se.

On the other hand, if the new unlimited authority policy looks brand new, and all prior legal notices gave no hint that what people understood to be theirs was actually not theirs, then there is a strong(er) argument that the new policy, at least as it concerns retroactive personal writings and images, is illegal.

If the new policy were clearly PROspective, not RETROspective as well, then CS could argue that people have the right to quit, and no injury-no foul. That does not seem to be the case here: CS seems to have allowed people to produce lots of writings and images and then, kind of like a trick, said "Oh, by the way, you know all that stuff you wrote and uploaded that you thought you owned? It turns out that we own it, not you, and we can do anything we want with it, even if you quit today."

That of course is bound to rankle people. Is it legal? The retroactive part might be, but I dare say that somewhere in prior legal notices there is something that gives CS the narrow legal right, or at least a _colorable_ legal right, to do this, or their lawyers would not have approved it.

But now bring in the actual expectations of users, what we might call the de facto legal rights of users. If there was a widespread expectation that this could not happen, and people relied on it, and CS did nothing to dissuade people from this belief; if indeed they fomented the belief, and had said nothing about it, or seemed to have hidden the truth in the fine print somewhere where it was unlikely to be seen, and people relied on their silence while producing content, then the new policy, at least the retroactive part, is more likely to be held to be illegal.

Of course actually determining its illegality would require that someone file a lawsuit. For that to be worth someone’s while they would have to suffer some pretty grievous damages, or a lot of people would have to suffer minor damages and those damages would have to be aggregated into a class action lawsuit and an attorney would have to figure there’s enough assets to make the lawsuit profitable. Neither is likely to happen, but it could.

The social contract is probably more pertinent, therefore. When Facebook changed a privacy policy not too long ago there was an explosion of opposition, FB got a black eye, and they walked the policy back. They may have had the legal right to do what they did, but their users had some say in whether they had the moral right. Companies have to pay attention to such things, because their customers can walk, or if they don’t walk, they can cause so much trouble that the cost to the company and management, in lost time, attention and energy, not to mention legal review, becomes too onerous.

What I suggest here is that CSers

*Follow the debate,
*Make their voices heard, here and in emails to management,
*Change their privacy settings as Taylor suggested at http://www.couchsurfing.org/group_read.html?gid=9949&post=13176834#post13227142

And perhaps most important from a legal point of view,

*Send an email to CS stating categorically that they reject the CS assertion that writings and pictures already posted belong to CS, but instead that they remain the property of the writer. They can also assert copyright in their profiles. These assertions won’t change the underlying “true” legality of the CS claim, which can’t be known until it’s adjudicated, but may have the effect of muddying the waters and raising doubt among CS attorneys about whether CS would prevail in a contest. That might soften CS resolve to stick with the new policy.

To paraphrase Frederik Douglas, “The limits of oppressors are set by the tolerance of those they oppress.” The waves made over this, as at Facebook, will determine where the line is set for management.

The posts made here by Polyglot, Pickwick, Libertedeparole, Ronald Plak, Vanidio, Discovolante, Bill Loundy, and YWC_Yes_We_Can also make good points and provide good information.

Posted September 19th, 2012 - 8:03 pm from Oulu, Finland
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Posted September 20th, 2012 - 1:05 am from Macau, China
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Posted September 20th, 2012 - 3:21 pm by from London, England (Permalink)
Soooo 8 hours till D-day. Does anyone know what we are supposed to agree to??? Anyone???

Posted September 20th, 2012 - 4:04 pm from Tourlaville, France
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Posted September 21st, 2012 - 1:58 pm by from Paris, France (Permalink)
So it is September 21st everywhere now, including that little remote place in the $illyCon valley behind the mountains.

Which terms govern the use of the CouchSurfing services?

These: Date of Last Revision: 13 July 2011


or these: These new policies will go into effect on September 21, 2012

And what about the Privacy Policy and Safe Harbor certification?

Posted September 21st, 2012 - 2:38 pm from Berlin, Germany
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Posted September 21st, 2012 - 5:03 pm from Tourlaville, France
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Posted September 21st, 2012 - 5:34 pm by from Paris, France (Permalink)
Pickwick: More like this.

Yves: Around here we may have 4 1/2 hours left, since no time zone is specified.

Posted September 21st, 2012 - 10:28 pm by from London, England (Permalink)
Just FYI, I asked policies@couchsurfing.org over two weeks ago about the exact status of content uploaded to my profile and then deleted before the date of acceptance of the new ToU : no reply. So I'm confused, do they own my soul (or at least my travel pics) or not? I don't think any court could enforce CS' 'rights' over our data considering the shambolic way this has been actioned.

Posted September 21st, 2012 - 10:57 pm by from Paris, France (Permalink)
September 21st came and went, and the Terms of Use linked from the bottom of the webpages are still those dated 13 July 2011 (but actually posted only August 24th, 2011, after the announcement of the "conversion" from a New Hampshire non-profit organization to a "socially responsible B/C Corporation"), with a note saying that new policies will go into effect on September 21, 2012.

I'll interpret this to mean that neither of these terms apply, since the old ones have expired and the new ones have not been officialized. I will for now assume that exclusively the laws of France, where my profile is registered, govern my use of the CouchSurfing website :-).

Posted September 22nd, 2012 - 1:02 am by from Cambridge, England (Permalink)
I just sent my email of rejection, and thought I'd share what I wrote in case anyone else wants to use it. I realise I'm ever so slightly late with sharing it, but hopefully it may be useful for somebody!

I uploaded it here:

http://onlyanimal.com/cs/letter-of-rejection-template.html

Everyone feel free to do what you like with it.

Posted September 22nd, 2012 - 1:31 am by from Cambridge, England (Permalink)
I want to add as a warning that, the letter is quite drastic, as I ask CS to delete my data if I can no longer use the service after rejecting the ToU.

I also sent the entire ToU too, both the new one and the old one.

Posted September 22nd, 2012 - 6:36 am by from London, England (Permalink)
Is there a risk if you sned that kind of email that they may just decide to delete your profile to be rid of you? The new terms of use give CS the right to do so without cause.

Posted September 22nd, 2012 - 10:55 am by from Dijon, France (Permalink)
"Is there a risk if you send that kind of email that they may just decide to delete your profile to be rid of you? The new terms of use give CS the right to do so without cause."

A few observations:

1) CS has always had the "right" to unlaterally and without motive remove a profile. In cases I am aware of, this has always been based on a complaint from another member, and a decision made by CS. However, the person losing their profile has not apparently always been notified, at least according to numerous claims.

2) CS has most often taken a strong position in favor of freedom of expression. Most censorship has been the result of group moderators, not of CS.

3) CS has announced big changes in the new website. Seeing that the CS blog now seems to demand contributers to join a network outside of CS to be able to post, I think it possible that the new website may find all groups removed from CS and externalized.

4) The introduction of the new website may be an opportunity for CS to effectuate some changes, including exclusion of some members, probably based on some sort of theoretically "objective" criteria. CS will nt do so if it thinks the reaction will be too strong.

5) Member statements asserting exclusion from the Terms could be one such criteria.

Posted September 22nd, 2012 - 11:33 am from Berlin, Germany
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Posted September 22nd, 2012 - 1:36 pm by from Cambridge, England (Permalink)
@Bluedragon, we'll just have to wait and see. Ultimately I sat and wrote what I wrote, and I didn't want to waste the time I had spent so I just sent it. I'm certainly not a lawyer though.

Still, I don't think there is any reason for them to accept the conditions I laid out in the email, I agree with Pickwick and don't suppose they owe me anything.

But I think I have a right to choose how they treat old data I submitted to the service, right? As in, if I don't agree to the new terms, then they cannot carry over that data so its governed by the new terms? Especially when I refused to grant them some of the individual rights or licenses found in the new terms.. I suppose if lots of people did this they would have a problem, but just a handful? There may be no harm that could come from sweeping them under the rug.

Maybe after an email like that I should stop logging in though..

Posted October 5th, 2012 - 8:43 am from Macau, China
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Posted October 5th, 2012 - 9:08 am by from Paris, France (Permalink)
I have been in touch with the author of the blog article who appreciated my comments but unfortunately cannot edit out the mistakes, and apparently due to technical problems it is impossible to register with the site and post comments:

>>has led to several people joining the network, with a primary motivation of find a free place to stay

That should probably be "many" if not "most" people.

>>again, references help in this case.

although unfortunately the most serious negative experiences are never written about as references or are negotiated or threatened away in retaliation

>>A B-Corporation is a class of corporation that is required to create general benefit for society as well as their shareholders.

That is the CS and B-Lab version. In reality there is no proof of this whatsoever, and CouchSurfing refuses to publish the by-laws which allegedly protect it from shareholder lawsuits for not maximizing profit. B-corp is just a Marketing label, not a legal form. CouchSurfing International, Inc. is legally a C-Corporation.

>>In an attempt to quantify the volunteer contributions, CS set up the CouchSurfing Cultural Exchange fund with funds from the Non- Profit entity which will award monetary grants to non-profits and schools with compatible missions.

Transferring the assets to charity or to the government was a legal requirement upon dissolution of the non-profit.
Despite several attempts no information could be obtained about any scholarship being granted one year later.

>>The hope though is that with the transparency requirements of a B-Corp, such accusations will be a thing of the past.

There are zero transparency requirements, neither legally nor from B-Lab, especially to anyone who is not a shareholder.

>>This set off further alarms

Also because one of the CS board members, Todor Tashev, is also on the board of Airbnb, and Catalysts Partners has capital invested also in Airbnb.

>>nothing has changed other than a vastly improved user experience

Most users will disagree that there has been any improvement. Even CS admits that the current site sucks: http://www.couchsurfing.org/news/cs-organization/bringing-our-website-up-to-date