Conversations about life & privacy in the digital age

Fighting for the Right to Know

In February a bill was introduced in the State of California by Assembly Member Lowenthal called AB 1291 or the ‘Right To Know’ Act.

The central theme of the ‘Right to Know’ Act is transparency – creating a way for the user of a service to request and thus understand all the information a company has about them in terms of what was given, what was shared, as well as what may have been inferred. And despite various company spokesmen speaking up in favor of AB 1291 (e.g. increased transparency), behind closed doors many of these same companies are working to defeat the bill via industry groups and coalitions.

It is tough to argue against transparency. And it has always been our belief that a more transparent ecosystem would give way to a better educated consumer which ultimately means a better business environment. After all, we would hate to think that somehow companies were taking advantage of us in any way and the ‘Right to Know’ Act is a way through this potential fear.

For these reasons and more, we felt compelled to come out in favor of AB 1291. Below is the letter we sent to Assemblymember Lowenthal in show of our support:

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March 21, 2013

 

The Honorable Bonnie Lowenthal

State Capitol, Room 3152

Sacramento, CA 95814

 

Re:  Support for AB 1291 (Lowenthal), The Right to Know Act

Dear Assemblymember Lowenthal:

On behalf of SpiderOak, Inc, we are writing to express our support for AB 1291, the Right to Know Act.

The Right to Know Act would modernize California’s Shine the Light Act (Civ. Code 1798.83), which was intended to provide Californians with the right to know when businesses are sharing their personal information. In the years since the passage of the Shine the Light Act, its definitions and mechanisms have been outpaced by rapid changes in technology, data collection, and business practices. The Right to Know Act would update this important measure.

We stand in support of the Right to Know Act for two reasons. First, SpiderOak strongly supports the principle that individuals deserve the right to know how their personal information has been collected and shared. Protecting user privacy needs to be an essential part of how we as a society address the growth of online activity. Therefore, we support efforts to provide individuals with consistent transparency across all of the companies who handle personal information.

Second, SpiderOak believes that transparency and greater understanding will help all businesses in the modern data ecosystem thrive – including SpiderOak. Businesses that handle personal information rely on user trust – that the business is handling information with the utmost care and concern. As the ‘cloud’ medium grows, information collection and gathering has increased exponentially. By increasing transparency, we believe that the Right to Know Act will promote good data stewardship across the board and thus increase overall trust in and usage of data-driven services, promoting innovation and business growth.

California residents and companies both deserve an online world where users can truly understand how their personal information is collected and shared. Transparency is a necessary step in building that world. For that reason, we are proud to join you in supporting the Right to Know Act.

Sincerely,

Ethan Oberman

CEO
SpiderOak, Inc

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We are curious to hear your thoughts on the ‘Right to Know’ Act and where you stand. Feel free to leave your comments here and looking forward to the dialogue!

Comments

  1. We need more voices says:

    I appreciate that SpiderOak has declared its support publicly. We need more voices like this, especially from businesses, to ensure that users’ privacy is not only maintained well, but also handled in a manner that makes it easy for users to understand where their personal information has gone.

    I don’t know about the details of the Right to Know Act, but businesses should come up with easy-to-understand ways of showing actual data sharing that has happened for a user, not just potential data sharing that may or may not happen. They should also send notifications whenever such sharing happens. Showing potential sharing would lead to blanket acceptance requirements that cloak “transparency” and indulge in the “business as usual” ways of not caring about privacy.

  2. Timothy says:

    Isn’t SpiderOak based in Illinois?

    • Linzi Oliver says:

      Hi Timothy – SpiderOak is a virtual company with teams all around the world. That said, San Francisco and Kansas City have our largest number of teams including our executives.