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[liberationtech] Stanford Bitly Enterprise Account

Jonathan Ezor jezor at
Fri Nov 16 08:50:05 PST 2012

While I am not aware of Stanford's setup, I have considered some of the privacy and other issues with URL shorteners, and have in fact implemented my own shortener using my domain, the open-source yourls service (, and service space I lease from GoDaddy. The technical skills needed were fairly modest (happily), and the cost minimal. So far, I have been very pleased with the results, both in terms of ease of use and the availability of metrics for each URL I create.

In thinking about the benefits and drawbacks of operating my own shortener versus using, or a different third-party option, I came up with a few including but not limited to these:

* Third-party services may be shut down at any time, and rarely allow users to edit the underlying URL once the shortened link is created, increasing the risk that a shortened URL included in a longer-term work (such as a book or archived Web page) will become unusable because the service has been discontinued or the referred-to content has been removed or relocated.

* There is no way to prevent either the third-party service operator or a malicious hacker from changing the shortening database to redirect clicks from the original page to another, without either the creator or users of the shortened URL necessarily realizing it. This could increase the risk of phishing, malware installation, or even hijacking of affiliate program commissions (as had been possible with link replacement tools from the past decade such as WhenU)

* Organizations incorporating third-party URL shorteners into their operations must be sure to disclose in their privacy policies that the services themselves could be directly collecting data from and about users. Bitly, for example, states in its terms of service (

7.  Bitly Metrics.
1.      Definition.
      Certain features of the Services allow Bitly to collect and track metrics, and generate analytics, relating to URLs shortened using the Services, bundles of shortened URLs created using the Services, and other metrics and analytics related to use of the Services ("Bitly Metrics"). Bitly Metrics include, but are not limited to:
1.      A history of all URLs shortened by a particular Account.
2.      A history of all clicks on a shortened URL.
3.      A history of all sharing of a shortened URL through third-party services such as Facebook and Twitter.
4.      A history of referral URLs for clicks of a shortened URL.
5.      A history of IP addresses used to access a shortened URL.
6.      Visual presentation of any or all of the above (excluding IP addresses).
2.      White Label Service.
      If you have chosen to use the White Labeled Service and have specified a Custom URL, the Bitly Metrics can be tracked on an individual domain level.
3.      Ownership Rights.
      You acknowledge and agree that all Bitly Metrics are generated and owned by Bitly, and that Bitly has the perpetual, worldwide, exclusive right to use, license, sell or otherwise dispose of Bitly Metrics for any purpose.

* With specific regard to, while the shortener itself is not apparently operated by the Libyan government, the .ly ccTLD is operated by the state-owned General Post and Telecomunication Company, making its operations (and authorization for .ly domains overall) subject to the policies and controls of whoever then is in control of Libya. While this is potentially true of any state-owned ccTLD, risks to continuity and even potential for redirections may be higher in countries with unstable political and social infrastructures.

* One possible benefit of standardizing on a third-party service, especially a popular one, is that it is likely to be included as an option in other applications, such as Twitter clients or mobile URL shortening applications. Happily, I have discovered that yourls (with custom domains) is supported by the free URL Shortener app I run on my Android phone and can be integrated with Firefox, so I can create short URLs on the fly.

Ultimately, the question is going to be one of control and reliability versus ease of implementation, and will be answered differently by each organization considering whether and how to standardize its URL shortening practices. {Jonathan}

Prof. Jonathan I. Ezor
Assistant Professor of Law
Director, Institute for Business, Law and Technology (IBLT)
Touro Law Center, 225 Eastview Drive, Central Islip, NY  11722
Direct: 631-761-7119    Fax: 888-549-7073
e-mail: jezor at; Twitter: profjonathan
Sample chapters of new business privacy law
coursebook from Lexis/Nexis:

-----Original Message-----
From: liberationtech-bounces at [mailto:liberationtech-bounces at] On Behalf Of Alex Comninos
Sent: Friday, November 16, 2012 9:15 AM
To: liberationtech
Subject: Re: [liberationtech] Stanford Bitly Enterprise Account

data retention and privacy implications compared to for example or installing a URL shortner on Libtech's own servers?

implications of the .ly ccTLD being under Libyan jurisdiction?

I would like to hear a little about these issues
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