Friday, February 19, 2010

My Kind of Privacy Policy

As we've discussed in class most users fail to read or understand the privacy policy of the various social networks and websites they visit. In many cases these privacy policies are written in opaque and dense legalese. Users have grown accustomed to these impossibly confusing privacy policies and as result routinely ignore them.

Im happy to report a pleasant surprise. While signing up for the new online service I took a moment to examine the websites privacy policy. It was shocking in its clarity.

Backupify's privacy policy is as follows:

Backupify is a strong supporter of online privacy and individual rights. We only collect data necessary to run the service effectively. Any data you store on Backupify is yours. We claim no rights to it. We don't look at it, we don't sell it, we don't analyze it, or anything else. Below are some specific questions we get and answers to them.

What information is collected about me?
We only collect data you provide us at sign-up. We do not ask for any other personal information. We do not collect data without your knowledge.

How do you use collected information?
We don't use it at all. The only thing we collect and monitor is general patterns of storage and service usage so that we can make sure our architecture is optimized for speed and scalability.

What security measures do you use to protect my privacy?
Any information we have about you is stored with strong encryption.

Will my information be shared with others?
No. Your information will not be shared with anyone, except in cases where information may be subpoenaed by law.

Wow. Thats pretty straightforward. I can only hope that other online service providers follow Backupify's lead and re-write their privacy policy in such clear terms.

For those interested, Backupify is an online service provider that provides an in the cloud backup service for your online accounts like Facebook, GMail, etc.

1 comment:

Meggie Michaels said...

While appears to value its users’ privacy, it still seems to me that it is not particularly safe. To have one’s information collected in once nice and neat package is always dangerous—if someone does gain access to this site, they would have all of one’s information. In addition, the website states that it stores all one’s information on Amazon’s cloud computing. This does not seem very secure. As a rule, I do not think of Amazon as a “stronghold” against individuals criminally attempting to obtain another’s personal information. I believe it is fairly simple to tap into someone’s Amazon account. Furthermore, as stated in Blown to Bits, “few seem to care much what Amazon does with its millions upon millions of detailed, fine-grained views into the brains of all its customers” (40).

Moreover,’s privacy policy claims that one’s information only will be shared if it is “subpoenaed by law.” However, this does not instill me with great confidence as the government has easily found ways to obtain information and as Robert O’Harrow states in No Place to Hide, acts like the “USA Patriot Act dramatically expanded the government’s ability to eavesdrop and snoop with little public oversight” (7). Furthermore, there is no guarantee that the creators of and staffers at will not look at your information. Just as in the previous article about laptops—surveillance was not the original purpose for webcams, but eventually became one of its functions---there is always a chance that one’s information will be utilized with another intention.

In addition, while the company’s stance on privacy is clearly stated; it simply claims that is values the privacy of its customers. However, the company does not elaborate on how it plans to maintain this privacy or what steps are in place to ensure absolute confidentiality. After reading The Shadow Factory: The Ultra-Secret NSA From 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America, the internet seems even less secure as now companies can tap into the fiber optic cables lining the ocean floor and obtain information at internet exchange points. Therefore, while may be clear about its policies, those policies cannot promise subscribers a guarantee on their privacy. And while, yes, the information’s site would store is already out in cyberspace; I believe it is a hacker’s dream come true: a convenient bundle of personal information just waiting to be unwrapped.