Conversations about life & privacy in the digital age

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

SpiderOak Privacy Policy Update

At SpiderOak, our user’s privacy is valued above all else. This is the reason behind our ‘Zero-Knowledge Privacy Standard’ and why we will continually put privacy first as we develop into the future. With this in mind, we would like to inform our users of an update to the SpiderOak Privacy Policy. The changes can be summarized as follows:

1) Edits to the Better Business Bureau contact information

2) Include more firm and direct language around contacting a user should their information be requested by a third party

Regarding the second point, we have been working closely with the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) over the last several years as we believe strongly in their mission – to fight for the digital rights of all users. During a recent conversation the EFF suggested we remove all possible doubt around the area of disclosure in the event that we are contacted by a third party to access data stored on our servers. To that end, we have included the following paragraph under our the ‘Disclosure’ section:

“SpiderOak’s policy is to notify a user of a request for their personal data stored on our servers prior to disclosure unless prohibited from doing so by statute or court order [e.g. U.S.C. § 2705(b)].”

To be clear, it has been our policy to make contact with any user should we be approached by a third party for the purpose of accessing a particular user’s data. The addition of this paragraph more plainly states our stance so that there may be no confusion or room for interpretation. I will add briefly that we have not yet been asked to relinquish end user data which we attribute directly to our ‘Zero-Knowledge Privacy Standard’.

Please feel free to send additional thoughts or questions about this change and/or any of our policies around protecting user privacy. We will continue to work with the EFF and others to ensure the rights of the user come first and foremost.

A special thank you to the EFF for continuing to help spread the word and draw that all-important line.

How does SpiderOak use SpiderOak? – Part 5

Daniel Larsson, QA and Marketing.

Being a frequent traveler and the resident US living Swede here at SpiderOak (born and raised in Sweden and living in the Midwest) one of the features of SpiderOak that I really love is Sync.

While many companies offer a ‘sync folder’ that allows you to place all the documents, images, video etc. into a folder that synchronizes between computers, I think the SpiderOak approach to folder structure retaining sync is an essential feature.

After backing up my entire desktop containing all my work material, the last thing I want to do is run a USB stick around updating documents in multiple locations such as temporary offices abroad, new laptops etc… This is where the brilliance of folder structure retaining sync comes in.

Using the same account across all my devices, I can simply backup my base configuration of any laptop or remote desktop, set up sync for my document, video, image folders etc…, and click ‘start’. With SpiderOak having an up-to-date copy of the data on my office desktop – and retaining folder structure when synchronizing – all I have to do is sit back and watch my new device fill with all the data I need for work, anywhere in the world, with the same structure as I am used to at the office!

This is one of the features of SpiderOak that truly feels like magic at work!

SpiderOak IAmA on

As a part of World Backup Day a few of us in the team behind SpiderOak will be answering questions about our service, company etc. in a AUA post on /r/IAmA on the social news site Reddit throughout the weekend.

For those unfamiliar IAmA is short for “I Am A” and AUA is short for “Ask Us Anything” and stands for a post where someone or a group of people answers questions from the community.

We at SpiderOak are doing this as a way of connecting with the community, spread awareness of World Backup Day, and our special offer of 5GB storage free for life through the bonus code ‘worldbackupday’.

We hope you will take the time to show up and say hello and maybe ask us a question or two! You can find the IAmA post right HERE

SpiderOak scaling back Refer-A-Friend program

When we at SpiderOak started our industry leading 50 GB Refer-A-Friend program back in May of 2011, we hoped that it was something that our most dedicated users would see as an opportunity to spread the word about SpiderOak as well as enjoy more usable storage in their account.

The initial response was overwhelmingly positive. While our storage costs increased, it was something we were more than willing to support for the good of the users.

However, along the road we noticed a few alarming trends that have led us to the decision to scale back our offering.

One of the first effects we noticed was a fairly large group of users blatantly misusing the program by creating a massive number of dummy accounts.

This was somewhat expected and something we could very well have dealt with, even though doing so would have made it somewhat harder for the vast majority of honest supporters to refer their legitimate friends and colleagues.

The second event occurred in late 2011 when the devastating floods in Thailand drove storage prices to new highs. This caused the cost of storage to skyrocket.

While this development was certainly unfortunate, we still kept the program open as we valued the input and support of our users higher than the increased cost.

The final event which ‘broke the straw’ reared its head just a few months ago. We began noticing ads on certain black-hat boards and markets selling ‘lifetime SpiderOak 50 GB storage’ accounts to unsuspecting buyers. That was simply unacceptable.

Instead of spending our days chasing down malicious accounts or banning users or possibly having to close down accounts purchased in good faith, we are choosing to scale the program back. At this level, we feel that users can still enjoy a valuable referral program and it is no longer profitable for scammers to sell our free service to third parties.

In closing, we would like to thank the vast majority of supportive users that have helped spread the word through our Refer-A-Friend program and hope that our user community will understand our reasoning behind the scale-back.

Effective 8 March 2012 our refer-a-friend program will re-boot, offering a max of 10 GB through referrals.

Of course, all users that have previously used our referral program without malicious intent will retain your accrued storage. We will deal directly with the others who were maliciously or inappropriately adding GBs to their account.

TLDR; Our refer-a-friend program was too generous and ended up inviting scammers, so we made the decision to scale it back.

We hope you understand. Much love, SpiderOak

A Little About Our Freedom Photo Contest Winner

We had a fantastic number of contestants. The photographic interpretation of freedom was interestingly wide. As suspected, it means something slightly different to all of us. The freedom photo contest allowed the important creative talent to shine and we appreciate all the entries and votes. Expressing freedom is important to all and it certainly has shown.

We caught up with contest winner, Terry Jones, to learn a little more about the winning photo:

“The reason I chose this picture, was in no small part due to the ‘relief’ and ‘Freedom’ a parent feels when their children are sleeping. Usually at the age of my daughter (6 months old, at the time), getting your child to sleep is a hard thought and demanding process. Once they are asleep, only then are you released, and set free for that small window of time, thus allowing me to further enjoy using my cloud storage at SpiderOAK.”

As our grand prize winner, Jones will receive $100 and 100 GBs.

When we asked Jones how he will use the winnings, he replied:

“I plan on taking my two kids to Chipmunks Playland which is a childrens indoor activity center, as well as get them some new clothes I guess.”

We encourage you to post your congratulations in the comments section below. You can see all the stunning entries on our Freedom Photo Contest Album on our Facebook or Flickr page.

New Expansion Ahoy!

If you’ve been using SpiderOak lately, you might have noticed that it’s been a bit… sluggish. A small portion of our users have been impacted by our recent expansion efforts. We do greatly apologize for the inconvenience. The good news is that we have been working diligently at installing new servers to increase capacity. In a few days, these slowdowns will be a thing of the past!

So please hang in there, we’ll have you right as rain before you know it! :)

How does SpiderOak use SpiderOak? – Part 4

Michael Crane, UI/UX & QA

I am often switching between my Mac, PC and Linux machines when I am testing features in SpiderOak across multiple platforms. For this, I love using the folder sync feature in SpiderOak so I can test multiple types of files. As I don’t often have the same types of files on all my machines, I set up one universal folder on all machines to set up a direct file sharing system for myself. Since I can use any folder, and any name, I name the folder by the operating system on each machine so I don’t get confused.

Sharing is great with SpiderOak. I can create share folders with work related documents and share the folder with my colleagues. Those files are often updated and sometimes saved as a new file on my machine, version history is great for this behavioral habit flaw of mine. I can check in my SpiderOak client to see which file was edited most recently as well as see how many historical revisions there are of the document. If there are several versions (marked with the number of revisions in parenthesis), chances are that’s the most up to date file, versus a file with no revisions from awhile back that was probably abandoned.

Select the file, click the ‘Share File’ button [www], send that link off to a colleague. Done and done.

How does SpiderOak use SpiderOak? – Part 3

Jovan Washington, Web Communications Coordinator

Hi everyone!

I want to formally introduce myself and let you know how I use SpiderOak. First, let me explain a little about what I do here. My official title is Web Communications Coordinator. I work closely with our small marketing crew. Those of you active on Facebook, Twitter, Forums, etc. have likely been talking to me in the last several months or so. I would LOVE to hear suggestions you may have regarding SpiderOak’s social presence, particularly concerning sites/platforms SpiderOak does not currently participate in. Let’s talk! What can we do differently?

Working with the marketing crew has been fun and challenging. I’ve been a SpiderOak user since early 2008, and would only use it to back up my documents. Now that I work for the company, I find myself using it in ways I did not imagine. For starters, I now back up all my media. Pictures from SpiderOak gatherings, videos for marketing material, music, documents/passwords, invoices… You name it and it is probably on our servers. I also use several different devices, so keeping all my data in sync with other devices is extremely important. Let’s say Daniel (our other marketing guru) needs marketing material that I created on my desktop at home. I am not at my desktop at home however I am at a coffee shop 5 miles away! No worries, I can access it and send it to him from my laptop. I even use SpiderOak to test new versions of the software we release so we can have a better product for you!

That is how I use SpiderOak. It stores my life.


Stay tuned! Tomorrow, you’ll hear from Michael Crane, UI/UX & QA.

How does SpiderOak use SpiderOak? – Part 2

Matthew Erickson, Director of Programming

My last job involved a lot of sensitive satellite data from various governments around the world. I used SpiderOak to securely backup and sync this data between my laptop and my workstation. I also used the mobile app (after I originally wrote it, heh) to pull up documents for reference while in meetings with my funding agencies.

These days, I don’t use SpiderOak so much anymore for sync (I only have one computer I generally work from), but I use it to backup my photos and work. I also make heavy use of it to send data and software to my co-workers and our business partners.


Stay tuned! Tomorrow, you’ll hear from Jovan Washington, Web Communications Coordinator.