debian-private archives leaked


On 24 December 2019, Santa Claus appeared on the debian-project mailing list sharing a link to copies of the debian-private archives from 1996 and 1997.

It is the second time in 2019 that people have made major leaks from debian-private. The first leak contained only one month's worth of data dumped on Pastebin, it has since vanished. This second leak, on IPFS, is more likely to hang around. It is nicely formatted as HTML for easy browsing.

Leak dateContentDescription
2019-12-24January 1996 - December 1997A Debian Developer posting as Santa Claus shared a link to an IPFS gateway. The download is a ZIP file containing a HTML browseable version of debian-private. The IPFS content-ID is QmNgEAYhpb3djgmZWcdNM2jN3epDmfGym89U41Jt2zr9tL.
2019-08-04January 1996A Debian Developer posting as Debi Leaks shared a link to Pastebin. The link no longer works.

It makes interesting reading. There is a thread about impeaching Bruce Perens although it is not nearly as gripping as the impeachment of Donald Trump.

At the time, Perens had publicly stated:

That's our little private mailing list where the package developers make fun of you without your being able to see it :-)

That comment was probably not intended to be taken too seriously. Unfortunately, it has come to define the Debian organization for over 20 years since then.

In a more recent episode on debian-private, somebody made an unpleasant remark about another free software developer who isn't in Debian. When challenged about this backstab, another Debian Developer dismissed the concerns:

They won't see these comments, that's the whole point of -private. People can talk more freely in here than usual.

debian-private is a mailing list including over 1,000 Debian Developers who all work in different companies around the world. To pretend this is a private means of communication is a farce.

The former Debian Project Leader's girlfriend, Molly de Blanc, promotes whispering networks in her talk at FOSDEM 2019. Feminists have worked hard to eliminate terms like toxic woman. Sadly, de Blanc's antics have given the term a new lease on life.

Debian's public mailing lists include huge threads preaching about codes of conduct, such as this in December 2019. The mentality of operating debian-private and the things that leadership figures write there contradict all of that.

When the leaders of the organization and key figures in the cabal behave abusively in what they consider to be a safe space, it is completely unreasonable to be upset at other developers for the tone of things they write anywhere else. Human behaviour is often a good reflection of the leadership.

Improving leadership standards and diversity both require real acts of leadership and transparency, not Molly's call-to-gossip. The leaking of this particular material, if it is intended to undermine confidence in debian-private, could be classed as a leadership act.