Conversations about life & privacy in the digital age

Naughty or Nice Tech Companies

Working at SpiderOak does come with its privileges and secrets.

You can imagine our surprise when Santa and his elves shared with us this year’s Naughty or Nice list. Being one of the most secretive and elusive men of all time, it’s no wonder Santa shares our love and passion for privacy.

On December 25th, Santa will allow us to release the names of the 5 tech companies that made his nice list and the companies taking up 5 spots on his naughty list.

Think you know who they might be?

Send your guesses to For each match, receive 2 free GBs of storage. Match all 10 and receive 30 free GBs.

Submissions will be received and counted up until midnight (pst) on Christmas eve.

You better watch out!

Looking For A Few Good Ambassadors…

This might not exactly qualify for a top secret mission though you can bet privacy is at the core of this operation.

SpiderOak is launching a ‘Zero-Knowledge’ Privacy Ambassador program & We Want You!

The ‘Zero-Knowledge’ Privacy Ambassador (or ZKPA) will help inform and educate people on the importance of preserving privacy in everyday online life. From communicating with individuals to talking in front of groups, a ZKPA understands that certain lines must be drawn and we must have a better balance between what 3rd parties have access to, what they can do with collected data, and understanding our rights as individual users.

Requirements include:

  • Must have working knowledge of SpiderOak
  • Must have passion for understanding what privacy means and how it may be preserved online


  • Wear & display the ZK Image
  • Distribute ZK materials as appropriate
  • Offer information about SpiderOak and ZK to those interested
  • Participate in online conversations where data privacy is being discussed
  • Identify potential other ZKPAs
  • Offer free GBs to those interested in SpiderOak and ZK
  • Provide & collect user testimonials around ZK and Privacy
  • Be a resource for perspective SpiderOak customers

Ultimately – as a ZKPA – “you get out of it what you put into it.” – SpiderOak will look to you to set the level of involvement you will have with this position

Benefits Include:

  • Work closely with the awesome & fun SpiderOak Team
  • Represent SpiderOak and our passionate stance on ZK
  • Play a key role in helping us shape and grow the ZKPA program
  • Interact and gain leadership experience
  • Help spread awareness about ZK and the importance of control as it relates to personal data online
  • Develop a ZK Seal Certification process used to award other companies and organizations who maintain the high levels of privacy standards

Training Training:

ZKPAs are greatly encouraged to participate in monthly conference calls. ‘Training’ dates will be provided in advance. Given that the program is new, the full amount of time required is yet to be determined. Our first goal will be to gauge interest and understanding around ZK.

About Compensation:

ZKPAs are not paid. In exchange for ambassadorship, ZKPAs will gain valuable experience as well as a decent amount of swag to be worn, given away, presented, etc…

Application Details:

We would like you to send us an email to detailing why you think you would make a good ZKPA.

Some questions to consider are the following -

  • Why are you interested?
  • What does ZK mean to you?
  • What qualities do you possess that would make you a good ZKPA?
  • What experience have you had around SpiderOak?
  • Are you bilingual? And if so – what languages do you speak?
  • What sites do you frequently visit and enjoy? News outlets? Social Media?
  • Anything else you would like to share.

We are very excited to launch the ZKPA program and even more excited to hear from all of you. Don’t hesitate to send thoughts, questions, ideas, etc…


SpiderOak Speaks At CloudCon

In the middle of downtown San Francisco yesterday, four experts in the area of cloud storage and backup platforms, including our CEO, Ethan Oberman, gathered at the CloudCon Expo & Conference. The panel discussed open source storage solutions, data replication to the cloud and re-inventing cloud storage to provide accessibility, reliability and performance. 

Ethan was asked to be on the panel by moderator and friend Gleb Budman, Co-founder and CEO of Backblaze. Other panelists included Larry Lang, President and CEO of Quorum, and Ranajit Nevatia, VP of Marketing at Panzura.

The array of solutions represented illustrates the wide variety of approaches to the cloud. Panzura brings local network-attached storage (NAS) capabilities to a distributed network of sites in globally integrated enterprises. On the other spectrum, Quorum uses a hybrid model toward disaster recovery offering both a local and remote (read ‘cloud’) product.

The hour was lively with discussions around 3rd party cloud providers from Amazon to HP, the role of consumer products like iCloud and Gdrive, differing beliefs around the concept of ‘private cloud,’ as well as anecdotes about Dropbox and the privacy concerns raised in enterprise usage. 

In addition to these important topics, one word managed to stay hidden for most of the conversation before being brought up by Ethan – that being ‘privacy’. Most cloud companies prefer – and rightly – to use the word security as they are in fact only talking about securing the data they are storing on behalf of their customers / users. SpiderOak’s ‘Zero-Knowledge’ privacy approach was created so that companies and individuals could benefit from various cloud technologies without having to sacrifice the privacy of their data. How is this the case? For a more detailed analysis you can visit our website but in short we never store user’s passwords and therefore can never look at the data. 

It will be interesting to see how this dialog continues to play out in conference halls and board rooms across the globe but we would bet it is an issue that is only going to grow in importance as the cloud continues its ascent. 

Spotlight on Sharing

Today, we would like to turn your attention to sharing. Below is a brief introduction on sharing and how it works from our co-founder and CEO, Ethan Oberman.

As Ethan describes, you can carefully and selectively allow portions of your SpiderOak Network to be shared (or become public) to family, friends, colleagues, or clients. You can create any number of password protected ShareRooms and share data aggregated over several machines (a folder from your Mac and another from your Windows machine). Furthermore, the data within a ShareRoom is automatically updated when changes occur eliminating the need to ever resend content. A ShareRoom may be accessed as a unique web URL or by entering a user’s ShareID and RoomKey on the SpiderOak homepage – easily allowing people you invite to view your documents, pictures, movies, and so on. In addition, each ShareRoom has a unique RSS feed to alert guests when new content is available.

This last video demonstrates just how easy it is to create a ShareRoom. Happy sharing!

SpiderOak June 2012 Newsletter



Judging by the popularity of criminal investigation and justice TV shows, it’s safe to say our society loves courtroom drama. In real life, although rare, we do receive a request from a law enforcement agency asking us to supply them details about a users. We publish the number of times this happens along with more information in our transparency report. Most of the time, the request isn’t even accompanied by a subpoena. The truth is, some companies immediately give the agents whatever they are requesting without making them go through due process. At SpiderOak however, when we get a request like this, we always tell them we only give user data in response to a subpoena from a court with proper jurisdiction. We also inform them of our Zero-Knowledge Privacy Policy which means our users’ data is encrypted such that we can’t decrypt it. Furthermore, unless they have the user’s encryption keys, they won’t be able to either. To date, this has always concluded the inquiry. In the event we need to comply with a subpoena we would notify the user prior to disclosure unless prohibited from doing so by statute or court order. To make this step more official we recently added this clause to our privacy policy. While the inside of a courtroom looks exciting on a late-night episode of Law & Order, we have yet to make any appearances.



The digital rights defender, Electronic Frontier Foundation, recently conducted a survey on what happens when the government demands companies hand over users’ private information. Evaluating 18 major Internet companies – including Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and Yahoo – we were thrilled to be included in the examination. SpiderOak ranked higher than most of the giants we shared the chart with. Interestingly, we were unable to receive a star for ‘Fight for user privacy in courts’ as we’ve never been in this particular situation. 2.5 out of 4 ain’t bad! Click here to see the results of When the Government Comes Knocking, Who Has Your Back?



Trading his desk on Wall Street for a seat at the table in Silicon Valley, John hasn’t looked back since. SpiderOak welcomed John to the team just a few months ago and tasked him with delivering solutions to our large Enterprise clients and generally promoting the Zero-Knowledge mantra. "I enjoy the excitement and challenge of being part of a team that has designed and championed industry-leading technology; and the satisfaction that comes from helping our clients deploy that technology to protect their critical business data," John said. He is no doubt a great addition to the SpiderOak family.

Click here to read more of the June 2012 Newsletter

Announcing: SpiderOak Blue OpenLicense

Yesterday, we announced the world’s first truly private cloud storage system designed for institutional use – SpiderOak Blue OpenLicense (OL). Our enterprise customers are growing and one exciting trend is the increasing number of colleges and universities needing to fully manage the data of their faculty, staff and students. Now, University IT departments can easily deploy a cloud-based backup – sync – share product, centrally manage accounts, and keep ‘Zero-Knowledge’ privacy intact.

Validating this need is Richard Stiennon, Chief Research Analyst at IT-Harvest. “Universities are a major adopter of cloud-based technologies because they have an inherent need to store a tremendous amount of data,” said Stiennon. “Because of the high value of the intellectual property being stored on their private clouds — as well as the potential for this data to be subpoenaed under federal law — universities need to consider a cloud provider which can off-set that responsibility and assure their students complete privacy and transparency. This can only be assured within a ‘Zero-Knowledge’ environment.”

In addition to the functional benefits SpiderOak Blue OL provides, we can extend learning institutions a significant labor-saving solution. Rather than procuring and allocating additional storage hardware, colleges and universities can seamlessly create and remove storage space on an as-needed basis. This allows for an easy transition for outgoing seniors whereby they graduate into a standalone SpiderOak account and are able to manage their own storage needs.

No matter what phase of learning or degree of pursuit, it’s always satisfying to hear from happy students such as Ross Mounce, PhD Student & Panton Fellow at the University of Bath, United Kingdom. “SpiderOak is great for research data management. The ‘Zero-Knowledge’ privacy client-side data encryption provides far better security than Dropbox, whilst maintaining excellent ease of use and cross-platform syncing.”

How does SpiderOak use SpiderOak?

‘Practice what you preach,’ a common response to what is seen as empty boasting. In asking ourselves how we use SpiderOak, we think you’ll find some interesting insight into how the makers of SpiderOak use their own product.

We don’t just talk a good game, we walk the walk.


Linzi Oliver, M3 – Messaging, Marketing & Making Stuff Up

I started using SpiderOak in 2008. At the time, I had a Toshiba laptop which contained very important documents and sentimental photos and videos. I used SpiderOak to backup those files. It was a good thing I did because not long after, my laptop laid itself to rest for good. Instead of fretting and panicking, I purchased a MacBook and added it to my SpiderOak network. All my data was recoverable.

This year, I purchased a MacBook Pro after leaving my other laptop at the security check point of SFO at the beginning of a long trip. I was able to download SpiderOak and retrieve needed files. I picked up my old laptop upon my return. You’d be amazed to see how many laptops are left at security on a daily basis. It’s shocking.

I currently keep several folders in sync across all my devices. I also use the SpiderOak ShareRooms to share photos and videos with family, friends and colleagues. Best of all? I’m the only one who holds the key to my data.


Stay tuned! Tomorrow, you’ll hear from Matthew Erickson, Director of Programming.

Do Not Track

I remember the chills that ran up my spine and the quickening of my heartbeat when I realized someone was following me in the grocery store. It was an initial exchange of smiles in the produce section that turned into multiple disturbing encounters throughout the store. I was deciding between various flavors of rice when I noticed he was standing by the pastas. I was reading the nutritional content on a container of yogurt and noticed he was peering over at me from the jugs of milk. This continued on.

It was broad daylight and there were plenty of people milling around so I didn’t feel terribly threatened, just totally creeped out. Did this person think he knew me? Was he working up the courage to ask me out? Or was he evaluating how a fit 34-year old mom kept her kitchen stocked? Whatever the motivation – innocent, vicious, or somewhere in between – this person was invading my space. I didn’t give him permission to accompany me. I wasn’t followed out of the store but I did leave feeling violated.

When I became aware of the online companies that have been tracking what I read, watch, and listen to – I was overcome with a similar feeling as I described above. One Sunday morning, I overheard a debate on a news show on this very subject. One gentleman was pointing to Facebook and how their users are volunteering their information; therefore, the personal data is fair game and the company has a right to it. But the last time I checked my account settings, the update I chose to share with my select circle of friends was intended for them, not for everyone who has a Facebook account, and not for the people who work at Facebook, and certainly not for the creepy guy in the grocery store.

A month or so ago, I received the announcement from Groupon, the deal-of-the-day discount site, regarding its new partnership with Expedia and its updated privacy policy which includes sharing my information between the companies such as my birth date, where I reside, where I’ve traveled – even my current location should I use it’s mobile application. Hmmm, all this in the spirit of more customized deals? I’m getting those chills again…

Had I found the manager of the grocery store that day and reported what I was experiencing, I’m 100% confident he would have personally escorted my stalker out the door. Perhaps a security guard or police officer would have gotten involved. I find it unsettling that companies are now helping themselves to this data without so much as asking – not dissimilar to those spying eyes. Is it necessary to better understand me as a customer? Would they send better deals my way?

Herein lies the real dilemma. It is easy enough to shop at a different market as there are plenty around the city. And if I can’t find the exact item I like then so be it. However, am I supposed to completely disengage from sites like Facebook and/or Groupon? Is that possible? Realistic? The larger companies like these get, the more complicated these privacy issues become. What do you think?