IRSeeking trouble...


Wow... The conversation in #mobitopia palled a bit this evening as we realized we were being watched and logged by a new startup called IRSeek without any sort of prior notice. They've started recording millions of chats in various IRC networks, according to TechCrunch, and our little channel on Freenode didn't escape the net. A quick search for mobitopia brings up 86 matches, with full logs going back to September. A search for my nick - RussB - brings back 36 matches.

In some ways, we shouldn't expect total privacy in #mobitopia but still, I have to say, it's a bit shocking. There's probably lots of analogies that you could give to explain what a breach of trust this is like, but it's pretty basic really - even if the conversations are technically public, there's an expectation of reasonable privacy within a channel. Lots of "off the record" sorts of things are said, opinions given, etc. that you don't really expect to be logged forever in such a public manner. And besides, they didn't *ask*.

Beyond the question of privacy and politeness... there's the question of "why bother?" There's really nothing more useless and boring than a log of an IRC chat. Ever do a search on the net and find some bot log of a random IRC channel? It's impossible to follow and rarely, if ever, turns up anything of use. This is one of the prime reasons long ago that we started pulling out just the links in #mobitopia, and posting them on the blog and eventually to with the tag mobitopia, because the rest is just goofing around and cruft.

Well, regardless, there are quite a few people in just our channel alone who are *not happy* with this and are (as I write this) currently on a witch-hunt for bots posing as random lurkers in the channel. I wonder if that's how they're doing this, or whether they've got some sort of deal with FreeNode* [Update: see below], or some other manner. If our happy little channel is having this much of a visceral reaction, I can't imagine what some of the other channels and servers are going to do when they find out... and honestly, I wouldn't want to be on the other end of whatever technical shitstorm IRSeek is getting itself into. I mean, pissing off millions of highly technical IRC geeks en-masse? They're nuts.


Update: I got PMed this morning by a member of the Freenode staff, who had been pointed to my post. He wanted to assure me "that Freenode doesn't condone public logging of channels without that consent of the channel owners/operators," and "that this data is being gathered by joining irc bots to logs of channels, and logging using them." So the logs are being gathered simply by anonymous bots in channels.

I asked if they were going to ban IRSeek, and he said they're hoping to talk to the owners and have them leave channels they haven't been invited to. I sorta wish they'd be a bit harsher, but hopefully IRSeek gets a clue and does the right thing without issues.


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