I don't want to start an argument here, and if the Amigos proclaim they don't/can't read U2Us, well, then, we have to take that on faith. After
all, as they frequently remind us, they own the ball, the bat, the field, and everything in it. If you don't like it, then by God you can take your
user provided content somewhere else and find another game.
However, from a systems administration point of view (I've been one since 1993), they CAN be read. Whether they ARE being read is a different issue.
Sys admins absolutely must have root-level access to do their jobs. There are too many things that can go wrong that require it. Root level access
means read/write access to every file, and that means access to the U2U database. It may not be 'clean' access, i.e.: You can read mail with a
clean program that formats it, or you can 'type' the file, a much dirtier form of access. But given that this is IS a 'conspiracy' site, anyone
who is particularly paranoid about the privacy of their messages ought to use a back channel outside the control of ATS. This is not a criticism of
ATS per se, it is simply prudent given the reality of the circumstances.
Further, although ATS has proclaimed in Terms & Conditions that thou shalt not post a U2U without the poster's permission, if you were to post a U2U
outside the ATS system, you would not run afoul of law. It is a well-known and long-established tenant that the recipient owns the message, not the
sender. This has been proven time and again in courts dealing with letters back into the eighteenth century. Many a 'Dear John' letter has been in
this predicament. ATS could, of course, ban you from ATS for doing so and you could still be subject to a civil procedure if ATS chose to sue in civil
court for violating terms and conditions of your 'contract' with ATS, but given the tenants of the law outside ATS, they would have to choose their
venue very carefully. It would be an interesting contest. Can you simply declare a point of law null and void by contract? Well, maybe.
There is another issue. Though this may seem a tenuous possibility, consider a fictitious scenario where it was discovered, for example, that ATS was
actually responsible for the Drone Hoax and U2Us proved this was so because the discussion was well prior to their appearance. They did this to
increase page views, ATS revenue, and buzz about the ATS site. It was a calculated move to increase traffic at the expense of denying ignorance.
Let us say someone could prove damages resulting from this hoax. For example, Linda Moulton Howe's reputation suffered because she embraced the
Drones and even proclaimed an intentional fake 'proof of concept' as real. (I realize this last is her problem.) Since her reputation affects her
livelihood, she could prove damages. In this scenario the U2Us could be subject to court subpoena. Failing to comply with court dictates could subject
ATS to sanctions. Plus, of course, the reputation of ATS would be in tatters by the end of this scenario.
Now this is a fictitious scenario, of course, but the point is to illustrate that your U2Us, from several different avenues, are not safe from prying
eyes. They are not safe from ATS itself, which has a vested interest in what they say. They are not safe from your fellow members, and they are not
safe from a subpoena. You can declare them private all you want, but the fact is that ascii text can be copied, pasted, and dispensed no matter what
Just food for thought.
[edit on 10/14/2007 by schuyler]