Confidentiality Policy: Policy & Abuse

Last Updated: April 2024

Purpose of this policy

In the course of performing their duties, Policy & Abuse committee (PAC) volunteers will encounter private information about Archive of Our Own (AO3) users, either posted to AO3 or otherwise obtained as part of a PAC case or investigation.

Users need to be confident that if they ever submit a report to PAC, their identity and the details of their report will not be shared with others, including but not limited to the individual violating the AO3 Terms of Service (TOS). They also need to be confident that if they are themselves reported, their case will be treated fairly and the details of their case will remain confidential.

In order to remain a neutral enforcer of the AO3 TOS, PAC volunteers are expected to uphold the highest standards of confidentiality. This means that they are prohibited from disclosing the details of any PAC case to anyone outside of PAC, except as described in this policy.

Definitions and scope

This policy applies to the following individuals:

  1. PAC volunteers, including volunteers and Chairs currently serving on PAC and those who have previously served.
  2. Advisors, such as the Board of Directors, the Legal committee, or other Organization for Transformative Works (OTW) volunteers, who:
    1. may need to be informed of some or all of the details of a PAC case in order to properly advise PAC on how to move forward (for example when a case is explicitly relevant to wider discussions of policy and/or related to the OTW as a whole), and
    2. have not yet signed an OTW confidentiality policy authorized as equivalent to this policy by the PAC Chair(s).

Confidential information originating from PAC work

All information received in the course of a PAC case shall be treated as confidential, no matter how widely available that information may be. This particularly includes, but is by no means limited to, all private user information that a PAC volunteer or advisor may view, investigate, discuss, or otherwise be privy to in their role assisting PAC.

Private user information may include (but is not limited to):

  • The connection between an individual’s legal, professional, and/or fannish identities
  • AO3 or social media accounts owned by the same individual
  • IP and email addresses used by an individual
  • Any other personal information about the individual(s) involved in a case

Notwithstanding the emphasis on protecting private user information as described above, all information about any PAC case will be considered confidential.

In situations where it is unclear whether information should be considered confidential, the default will be to treat the information as confidential, unless determined by the PAC Chair(s) that the information should not be considered confidential.

Confidential information originating from other OTW committees

In addition to information received or encountered as part of a PAC investigation, a PAC volunteer may encounter non-public information originating from or belonging to another OTW committee. Such information will also be treated as confidential and must not be shared without permission from the other committee.

Treatment of confidential information

Volunteers shall not discuss or store confidential information in any location that can be accessed by any unauthorized third parties. Volunteers may discuss confidential information within the confines of private OTW-controlled spaces used for PAC work and/or restricted solely to currently-serving PAC volunteers or Chairs.

Volunteers may never reveal confidential information to an individual who is not a current PAC volunteer, unless:

  • the information is solely personal information belonging to that individual;
  • the disclosure is:
    • to the subject of the relevant complaint,
    • required for investigation or resolution of the complaint, and
    • does not include private user information about any other individual;
  • the individual is an active member of an OTW committee or the OTW Board of Directors whose input is necessary for the resolution of that case (such as AD&T, Translation, or Legal) and who has signed either:
    • this policy, or
    • an OTW committee confidentiality policy authorized as equivalent to this policy by the PAC Chair(s); or
  • the OTW is required to disclose the information in response to a United States court order, subpoena, or other legal process.

Before sharing confidential information with a third party in the situations listed above, the volunteer must obtain approval from a PAC Chair (or Chairs). This includes sharing information with the OTW Board of Directors or any appointed liaisons. In situations where a member of another OTW committee (such as Legal or AD&T) is required to provide input, the volunteer must only provide the bare minimum information that is required by that committee member in order for them to advise.

Communications between an individual and PAC will continue to be treated as confidential by PAC even if the individual in question has released the contents of their exchange(s) publicly.

If asked directly about an existing or potential PAC case by an unauthorized third party, the volunteer must decline to comment (including declining to confirm the existence of the case) and reply that PAC work is kept confidential.

Exception for non-specific or aggregate trends

PAC volunteers are allowed to speak in generalities, such as “many cases tend to…” or “as a general rule, PAC will usually…”, but they may not use any specific case as an example. PAC may release anonymized aggregate statistics related to PAC work, for such purposes as to recommend policy changes to the OTW or to communicate with the AO3 user community.

Breach of policy

Failure to uphold the terms of this policy is grounds for dismissal from PAC and/or permanent ineligibility to join or rejoin PAC.

If a non-PAC volunteer who has agreed to this policy is found in breach of it, they will be reported for formal disciplinary action to the Chair(s) of the relevant committee(s), including the Volunteers & Recruiting committee.

Updates to this policy

This policy will be reviewed no less than once every three years. Prior to implementing any changes to this policy, the PAC Chair(s) will consult with the Legal committee in case of potential conflicts or unclear language.

Should substantial changes be made to this policy during such a review, currently-serving volunteers may be required to sign it again in order to continue serving.


If you agree to this confidentiality policy, you understand that it is binding both during your service as a PAC volunteer or advisor and after your service with PAC has ended, including during and after any future service for the OTW in any other capacity.

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