Wednesday afternoon, Tableau Software removed data visualizations published by WikiLeaks to Tableau Public. We understand this is a sensitive issue and want to assure the public and our users that this was not an easy decision, nor one that we took lightly.

We created Tableau Public—a free service that enables anyone to make interactive graphs from their data and share them online—because we recognized the need for strong analytics tools in a data-driven world. Given the controversy around the WikiLeaks data, we’ve closely followed the debate about who actually has the rights to the leaked data.

Our terms of service require that people using Tableau Public do not upload, post, email, transmit or otherwise make available any content that they do not have the right to make available. Furthermore, if we receive a complaint about a particular set of data, we retain the right to investigate the situation and remove any offending data, if necessary.

Our decision to remove the data from our servers came in response to a public request by Senator Joe Lieberman, who chairs the Senate Homeland Security Committee, when he called for organizations hosting WikiLeaks to terminate their relationship with the website.

This will inevitably be met with mixed reaction. However, our terms of service were created to ensure responsible use of data.

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"Our terms of service require that people using Tableau Public do not upload, post, email, transmit or otherwise make available any content that they do not have the right to make available."

that's the catch... "do not have the right to make available"

there's much more at play than copyright. there's a little constitutional issue which determines rights as well. whistleblowers are supposed to be protected in any civilized state, and moreover it is not wikileaks who took the data in the first place.

admit that you chickened out. understandable, but still not honourable in any way. it's not like these graphs were endangering lives.

quite disappointed to see the real state of free speech and freedom of the press - that it, like everything else, is beholden to commercial/political interests.

speech is free, but some of it is more free than the rest.

Shame on you.

I do not see any "mixed reaction". The reaction seems to be virtually unanymous.

I've never heard of this software until I found out about in WikiLeaks. It's too bad that I won't be using your services anytime soon as companies who are unwilling to support free speech do not receive my support.

Shame!

Man, people are pissed just because the site removed data which violated the website's TOS.

You agree to not use the Service to:
a. upload, post, email, transmit or otherwise make available any Content that is unlawful, harmful, threatening, abusive, harassing, tortious, defamatory, vulgar, obscene, libelous, invasive of another's privacy, hateful, or racially, ethnically or otherwise objectionable;
k. intentionally or unintentionally violate any applicable local, state, national or international law, and any regulations having the force of law, including, but not limited to, regulations promulgated by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, any rules of any national or other securities exchange, including, without limitation, the New York Stock Exchange, the American Stock Exchange or the NASDAQ;

Sounds pretty clear cut to me.

Please Mr. TOS-guy,

Can you list where or how it was violated? Can you tell which Court has determined that any of these violations occurred? Or are you just pulling this out of your ass?

Reading through these comments, the reactions don't seemed mixed at all, but seem to be very critical of the actions taken by Tableau. While many of the commentaries seem to decree freedom of speech I don't feel like they understand that freedom of speech applies to protections from government not privately owned companies.

Hopefully further readers understand that spouting Freedom of Speech war cries do not apply in this situation.

Fortunately, private companies are subject to their consumer's ebb and flow and while Freedom of Speech is a poor attack, stopping usage of Tableau's software attacks the accounting of the company, where it is most critical. As an actual customer of the software, while I don't look forward to hunting down new software, I do accept that I can affect this poor decision by affecting their bottom line. I have instructed my team and those within my company to no longer use the Tableau software.

> Our terms of service require that people using Tableau Public do not upload, post, email, transmit or otherwise make available any content that they do not have the right to make available. Furthermore, if we receive a complaint about a particular set of data, we retain the right to investigate the situation and remove any offending data, if necessary.

It's yet to be seen whether Wikileaks has done anything illegal, but otherwise, data produced by the federal government is public domain--yes, citizens have a right to use it!

> Our decision to remove the data from our servers came in response to a public request by Senator Joe Lieberman, who chairs the Senate Homeland Security Committee, when he called for organizations hosting WikiLeaks to terminate their relationship with the website.

So, the senator did NOT call on Tableau Software personally? It independently acted on a "public request"?

Data produced by the federal govt is public domain unless it is in the interest of security at the personal, local, or national level.

Also the decision came in response to a request, i.e reviewing their own TOS and determining that it violates their TOS.

It would be respectable if you had simply said something like, "We agree with Senator Lieberman that this information is potentially harmful to the US, and will thus no longer participate in its distribution."

What you *actually said* was "Mealy-mouthed nonsensical reference to inapplicable terms-of-use guidelines, we got scared when Lieberman opened his yapper."

From Glenn Greenwald's blog:

The only thing these "visualizations" presented were charts summarizing the material released by WikiLeaks (for instance, the charts counted the documents which originated from each country, the number of documents by year, and the like). These charts contained no classified information whatsoever, and disclosed nothing about the content of the cables. It was the completely innocuous work of a freelance journalist to inform the public about the categories of documents released. Those charts were then linked to from the WikiLeaks site, but hosted separately by Tableau.

Anyone that would like to see the visualizations can see them at the bottom of his post I linked to (click Glenn Greenwald).

Hard decision and you took the wrong one..
you have 1 complain regarding the data, and 1 million (and more) regarding you decision.
Judge that..

You've shown your true colors. I will never recommend or use your software.

People, people... Get over yourselves.
Taking this information down *is* a badly informed and probably very emotional decision, but the world will hardly change because of it. What we saw happen here is really a *symptom* of decreasing freedom (ongoing in many western countries), rather than something that *causes* a decrease in freedom.

You'd better target your members of congress with all the rage instead.
Why don't they stand up for your freedom and rights? Why don't they protect
what they have sworn to protect? Who are the real cowards here?

The real reason for the removal is quite simple. Tableau would rather maintain a business relationship with the government than protect its users from it.

http://www.tableausoftware.com/about/customers

Public Sector and Government
Aspire Public Schools
Australia Attorney General
Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)
DC Government
Federal Air Marshal Service
Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)
Government of Canada
National Science Foundation
NSA - National Security Agency
NYC Department of Education
Omaha Public Power District
Pacific Northwest National Lab (PNNL)
Port of Seattle Aviation Planning
Potomac Engineering Solutions
SOCOM - US Special Operations Command
State of WA, Dept of Labor & Industries
Urban Forestry Administration
US Air Force
US Army
US Bureau of Land Management
US Department of Agriculture (USDA)
US Department of Justice
US Department of the Navy
US Internal Revenue Service
Veteran's Benefit Association (VBA)

Our company is pulling the plug on Tableau Software.
Enough said

So you do what any senator asks you to, without waiting for a court's or judge's decision? To me this looks like cowardice. I hope people will lose trust in your platform and your business will suffer from this.

oh its getting funnier

you guys even censor the comments here, which were saying that your action were predictable and your ad video states something your TOS prohibits

rofl

Your software has been a game changer for our business.
We wouldn't even consider switching over this buzz.
There is nothing else out there that even comes close to Tableau.

You censored a bunch of statistics which in no way contained anything to do with the reports. Google have not taken down their Wikileaks data. This is like taking down school shooting statistics as they encourage school shootings somehow.

Pathetic. Just pathetic. I will not be using your software in the future and have informed all of my clients to abandon your software.

As in watergate some got prosecuted but all of us won.
As for vietnam some wanted secrets but a picture ended the war machine madness.
When you learn that we'll be back,

To all you complainers, please, make good on your threats and go find free software somewhere else. That'll really show them! WikiLeaks STOLE the information and currently their founder is criminally the most sought after person on earth. Instead of talking about free speech (that ideal is long gone in this county anyway) try using the analogy of a thief posting his plan online. It doesn't matter that the "details" aren't there to view, it's still enabling him by keeping it up. Also, a data dump of STOLEN information from WikiLeaks is not journalism, especially considering the agenda that guy has.

Get over yourselves and go find other free software to use and ask the next vendor if they'd do the same thing Tableau did, by their answer you'll know if they're lying or not because it's obvious.

I plan to delete your program from my computer at the earliest opportunity. Shame on you.

You had two choices. You didn't have to but you did in response to government pressure. Tells me all I need to know about you.

While I accept Tableau's right to pull down the Wikileaks-related visualisations, I just wish they were more honest about their reasons rather than just hiding behind corporate double-speak and the legalese of the terms of service.

The real reasons are:

1) Wikileaks-related visualisations is very popular and is placing a higher than normal demand on our servers. This is negatively impacting the performance of other users.

2) We have many US government clients and hope to get more. We don't want to do anything that might jeopardise existing or future relationships.

Simple and honest. If they did this I think more people would at least respect, while not necessarily agree with, the decision.

I'm very disappointed by your decision to pull the data. I think you've got a great product and I think millions more people would use your product if you had kept the wikidata even if initially only to look at the data. Some American senator jumping up and down shouldn't be enough to make you roll over. Shame on you.

I am embarrassed for all the American citizens that believe that their country is a true free democracy. Having said that, this is not a free speech rant, rather it should be acknowledged that this decision taken by Tableau is not based on sound legal advice as any such advice would clearly point out that no classified material was ever stored on Tableau servers.

SHAME ON YOU!

Why don't all you libertarian-eff-gnu-slashdot nerds go back to your parent's basement where you belong. This is not a free speech issue. Big brother is not trying to pull one over on you.

1. Tableau is a private company and is free to do what they want regardless of what the constitution says since it pertains to government and not corporations.
2. The value of wikileaks is HIGHLY overrated. What good has ANY of the knowledge from wikileaks done to anyone?
3. I for one still believe that a government by the people and for the people is still looking out for me. Every political exchange throughout history is fraught with deception, misdirection, deceit, and lying. Thats human nature. Welcome to the real world. Wikileaks exposes nothing new. It is simply business as usual.

I guess you can kiss your business goodbye.

People have long memories.

On the rights issue, I present you with this excerpt from a Supreme Court Justice. It's 30 years old but I hope it still works today:

"paramount among the responsibilities of a free press is the duty to prevent any part of the government from deceiving the people and sending them off to distant lands to die of foreign fevers and foreign shot and shell.

[...]

In revealing the workings of government that led to the Vietnam war, the newspapers nobly did precisely that which the Founders hoped and trusted they would do."

This is from a Supreme Court decision on releasing the Pentagon papers on the Vietnam war. The rest is just as interesting, google the above phrase to find the full text. As far as I can tell, despite all the mantras from Liebermann/Hillary and so on in the news, the US Govt has not asserted its state secrets privilege in these documents in a court of law, that would allow it to prevent publication.

I feel like I should add how the above quote, which refers to sending our people to die of "foreign shot and shell" applies to the wikileaks diplomatic cables. It does not appear its intention was limited to war disclosures, and can certainly apply to many cases where us, the people, have been deceived into allowing the government to act in ways that are not beneficial to citizens but to third parties (witness the ACTA leak, also by wikileaks), some of the recent leaks actually do talk about war: the Arab world inciting US to attack Iran.

I am certainly happy they came out now to prevent a new war. Now our own government may have a harder time selling a new war to our people, and the burden of proof will have to be set a lot higher than "someone saw WMDs in a ditch somewhere so we have to invade".

With respect to Tableau's decision to pull out: they at least did not lie about the reason like Amazon did.

So sorry for you. Smart - really smart company with good technical nerdy leadership that has proven they can hit the sweet spot in the market with a solid offering.

But nothing trumps social awareness. Your degrees are worthless and all your education is a farce if you can't make a good business decision. Others on this thread will bash you for your cowardice. I will not participate. I will scold you for being too stupid to realize that you had a prime marketing opportunity that you blew.

Damn! Can't begin to express how much it bothers me when little start-ups like yourself don't seize great opportunities that are handed to them on a plate.

Reset your longint_imthenextbestthing_counter to zero and learn from this foolish blunder. Apologize to the people, your employees and the public. Admit you were wrong to move so hastily. If you can tolerate the backlash for pulling content don't restore it.

Change the name of the company to Taboo or perhaps Tabloo or something clever (Tableau was NOT clever) and you'll be back up to where you were in no time at all.

No one with as much education as your leadership team can be considered idiots. They only do idiotic things and try to justify them. Do your best to refrain from this predictable practice.

Oh... and one more thing. Fire your PR person. Not only was the message off-base - you can blame him/her for leading you in the wrong direction. "Get out of Stupid Jail for Free' always cost something.

I am disgusted by you and your companies cowardice, have you ever heard of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, in simple terms that even you can understand its called freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

We as a nation engage in war in Afghanistan and Iraq for theses very reasons, and what have you done, you have sacrificed our right to know, our right of free speech and endangered freedom of the press. Not in Kabul or Baghdad but in the heartland of the worlds greatest democracy the United States of America.

What ever happened to "We the People", it seems to me that we the people of America are becoming the slaves to the servants of the people!

Both you and Tableau Software along with Senator Joe Lieberman are bunch of scared·y-cat redcoats, its no longer a matter of "the British are coming" its a matter of "the turncoats are coming".

Although I understand that a company is able to take any decision that it believes to be in its best interests, I fail to understand the rationale employed by Tableau.

A 'public request' from a US Senator triggered an investigation by the company as it was categorised as a complaint. Are there any precedents for this type of action by Tableau - i.e. have you responded to any other public request? Does a 'public request' have to originate from a government authority or will you respond to any request and assess it on its merits?

Also, in light of the concerns about the rights to data, it is instructive to note whether similiar action will be taken against any media outlet that utilises Tableau in relation to the publication of data that is provided by a whistleblower or a 'source' - will the media outlet be judged as the 'right holder' in this circumstance?

Despite the above, Tableau has failed to articulate how, if at all, Wikileaks was not the rights holder of the particular visualization(s), considering that no data from the cables was actually utilsed.

The lack of a reasonable process or procedure in making decisions of this nature is deeply troubling, not to mention that Wikileaks has not been offered a right of reply or the opportunity for an explanation. Further, the absence of a consistent approach clearly demonstrates that this action was entirely arbitrary and Tableau's motivations are highly suspect.

It is also interesting to note that Tableau has clearly chosen to align its actions with a particular group of clients (see its US Government contracts) to the detriment of other customers.

Overall, I am deeply dissapointed by this decision. As a consequence, I refuse to endorse or make use of any Tableau products from this point forward.

I'd never heard of your company before this.

I do have to do quite a lot of data manipulation to try to visualise the interrelationships between parameters in real measurements only lightly illuminated by theoretical models (which are known to be flawed).

Could you tell me the names of your competitors (preferably non-American ones ; there is no reason to swell the US's tax coffers) so that I can consider their offerings. Obviously I won't trust your services with my data (or my client's data).

When the last of you leaves the office, remember to turn off the lights.

Spineless backdown once again from another spineless company.

Congrats-You have now joined the admirable league of Enemies of the Open Global Society

Good to know which software not to use in the future !
Ridiculous explanation. Only because a complete idiot in the USA demands it publicly...
What a shame !

I´m very sorry but I won´t be using your software again.Pitty,it was good software.Shame on you.

BYE BYE, I will never use your software again.
And I will encourage my friends to do the same.

The data that WikiLeaks visualized using your service were meta-data that they computed on their leaks. Hence WikiLeaks does indeed own the rights to these data.

But i guess it's easier to say they are at fault than just admitting that your interdependence with the security sector of the US govt is the reason behind your actions.

It is a shame … you lost a fan and a lot of customers. Just a cowardly move. I hope your company will get broke in a few month.

When I talk about Tableau, I say it's a tool for finding the story inside data sets that, without Tableau, would be overwhelming. I've been proud to be a Tableau user. I'd have expected Tableau to stand against pressure to dump Wikileaks. This action, this weak buckling, makes me feel ashamed of Tableau.

Kevin Provost
Portland, Oregon

I have had Tableau software since the late 1970s although have not used your software recently. I am disappointed to hear you have started your own little Hitler youth group and joined the evil axis of govenment suppression. Sad.

I am in support of those who will no longer support your business, and will join them. While the rights enumerated in the First Amendment are stated in relation to what the US Congress may do, the rights are still real and they're a person's civil rights. One may argue you violated them. But I support the right of a private company to do whatever it wants with its users and ToS but then it risks being capricious. What happens to the next user whose data you don't like?

What you had was a great opportunity. You should have taken it and run with it and used the PR to your advantage. As you can see by the comments, here and elsewhere all over the world, the support for Wikileaks is vast. Your servers being able to support these visualisations at a time of stress, both technical and political, could have paid huge dividends. But the technical stress was NOT the reason given for removal of the data. As it stands, even if you lose only a few customers, in the eyes of the world you end up being losers.

Exactly right, Ram. It's speculation, of course, but it appears to me Tableau buckled out of fear of losing its government contracts. They make a fine product but they've lost a big chunk of my affinity, damaged their social reputation worldwide, and missed a chance to be a towering example of the American Idea.

You should be ashamed of yourselfs, and one day you will be.

If I look at your company-blog's history, the most you ever heard before from people who had an interest in your company was represented by 11 comments on Nov 9, 2010.
On this post you have close to 400 comments and counting. Have you heard what they teach in business about listening to your customers/prospects?

I will seriously reconsider my relatonship with you from now on. What a blow!


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