Conversations about life & privacy in the digital age

The first Privacy Roundup of 2013

Another year has passed and we are ushering in another year of technological breakthroughs, computer crashes, storage problems and of course security and privacy issues. Fortuitous then that we bring you the first privacy roundup of the new year, filled with informative and interesting news from around our globe.

As usual you will find a wealth of information on privacy and security below, and just like always we look forward to your feedback.

Facebook chose Bing over Google because of privacy concerns

At Disney Parks, a Bracelet Meant to Build Loyalty (and Sales)

Chips off the old block;
Tracking children has never been easier. Nice for parents, not for privacy

Yahoo! Mail makes HTTPS available.

Silent Circle Adds Android For Encrypted Voice And Video Calls.

After a year in the grave, can SOPA and Protect IP return?

As always, Live long and Prosper!

Introducing Privacy MadLibs: Win Free Storage

Some of us here at SpiderOak loved the game MadLibs when we were younger. If you remember, MadLibs are silly word games that create a new story by changing a few selected words. That is what we want you to do to the text below…


All you have to do is submit your answers/words in the order they appear, in the comments section below (with your username). We will publish our key tomorrow, along with the top three submissions that get closest to the right answers.

  • First Place: 7 GBs
  • Second Place: 5 GBS
  • Third Place: 3 GBs

We can’t wait to see what you come up with!

SpiderOak MadLib

We think individuals and companies don’t have to {Verb} their {Noun} online. Companies who can’t offer privacy are forced to sell security alone. However, we believe the cloud can be a perfectly safe place as well.

Privacy has been and will always be a priority for SpiderOak. Everything we {Verb} for meets our ‘Zero-Knowledge Privacy Standard’, which means no one at SpiderOak can see your {Adjective} plaintext data.

SpiderOak is often referred to as “the secure alternative to Dropbox”. Our founders {Verb – Past Tense} SpiderOak in 2007 with the ultimate idea to create an environment where they didn’t even have to trust the people that work at SpiderOak. It was {Adverb} built in to the product.

We are very proud of how SpiderOak has evolved over the past several years. Once you download our {Adjective} {Noun}, you can use our software online to back up, share, sync, access and privately store data for only $10/month. You can {Verb} your data from anywhere, from any device: Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux (Ubuntu, Debian, and Fedora & openSUSE). We also offer SpiderOak Blue, which provides the same security and privacy you know and love to businesses. The financial, healthcare, legal, and accounting sectors with sensitive data are especially keen on the {Noun} SpiderOak Blue provides.

Thanks for making the web a safe place with us! We predict 2013 will be ‘The {Noun} of {Noun}. What do you think?

Privacy Roundup – Holiday Edition

In time for the Holiday Season we bring you the 4th edition of our ‘Privacy Roundup’. We are happy to report that the end of 2012 has brought with it a focus on privacy in Washington and can only hope it is a sign for things to come in the new year. In the meantime – however – here is another list of advice, news, tips and tricks to help you stay on the path to privacy as we enter 2013.

Presented below are the most eye opening and informative writings on the topic of online privacy over the last few weeks:


On Privacy: It’s Not What I’m Hiding (Or Not Hiding) That Matters

Technology built into mannequins helping stores track customers

It’s Time to Modernize our Privacy Law

Hacker locates John McAfee through smartphone tracks

Get Ready for Ads that Follow You from One Device to the Next

Black boxes in cars raise privacy concerns

Trust you all will have a wonderful & happy Holiday Season and looking forward to continuing the dialog.

Until then and in the slightly altered words of Ron Burgundy – “Stay ‘private’ my friends…”

It’s time to kill ‘online’. And buy clean milk.

As someone who has been ‘online’ since the early 90′s, listening to the emerging conversation around privacy, security, and integrity makes me want to flip a virtual table.

Having managed and built such sexy things as ‘direct marketing and selection systems’ for longer than I care to admit, I can honestly say that the argument against the silent collection of user data as being one that “degrades the experience for the majority of users” (Article link: Yahoo will ignore Do Not Track for IE10 users) is bullshit – pardon my frankness. A more honest description would read somewhere along the lines of ‘we make lots of money selling and distributing user data because it costs us nothing and is worth a lot of money’. (Please don’t sue me!)

So the question remains: why are we still living in a world whereby every time we visit a website the operators are silently – and in some cases without express consent – gathering all sorts of information on our location, previous shopping habits, age, demographic and a slew of other preferences?

To display the vast differences between ‘online’ and everything else, let’s look at two simple examples:

If you walk into Walgreens and buy a pack of gum you have the very visible choice of joining any of at least 2 or 3 savings programs, give money to starving children or just registering for future bonuses. In the physical world this is a very clear and conscious choice that most people (including myself) decline or accept based on our personal preference.

Simple, isn’t it?

However, the virtual world plays by a wholly different set of rules.

Every time you visit a website you are likely to be giving away a number of identifying factors whether you know it or not. And should you happen to actually purchase something, you are leaving yourself at the mercy of the capitalistic virtual demigods. Not only are you giving away your credit card number, address, zip-code, purchase preference, delivery preference and phone number, but very likely a massive amount of aggregate information stored in cookies from other purchases and visits that you have made. So what’s the difference?

In 1995 I would have totally understood this process. The Internet was a vast wasteland, inhabited by porn and pop-ups, and ruled by unscrupulous characters (no need for student loans, thank you very much).

Even in 2000 the Internet was mostly an unregulated territory where spammers could roam free and ‘Adwords’ was an instant success story (again, thank you). But now? What gives ‘online’ the right to work under a different set of rules and regulations then regular ‘IRL’ commerce?

Opt-out by default should be the standard.

Companies (yes – I am looking at you Google, TradeDoubler, Yahoo, etc…) collecting personal information should be on a ‘default is NO’ basis. Not only because this practice is borderline illegal in many cases but – and much more importantly – it undermines the very nature of consumer confidence. Thus, it is time to kill ‘Online’ and start treating ‘online’ the same way we do everyday grocery shopping.

Commerce is commerce.

If you buy something ‘online’ or at your local store you should, as a consumer, be able to expect the same service, rights, privacy, and responsibility as you would in any brick-and-mortar store! Anything less and the the impact will remain consistent – people still thinking of the Internet as a less secure, less private and less safe purchasing option. And THAT is not good for anyone.

So let’s do away with the excuse that ‘online’ somehow differs from ‘IRL’ and just accept that whether you are face-to-face with your local grocer or 5,000 miles away you are still just buying a gallon of milk.

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…


Privacy Roundup – 3rd Edition

Today we bring you another edition of our ‘Privacy Roundup’. I would enjoy reporting that our online privacy is moving toward a better place but as you will read below – this is not the case. Unfortunately it seems as though our civil liberties have to be violated before we take notice. However, it is not all doom-and-gloom and positive strides are being made day in and day out by folks who don’t just care about their own privacy but yours as well.

So with no further ado, I present the following articles and posts surrounding the ever-peering online world in which we live:


US Government: You Don’t Own Your Cloud Data So We Can Access It At Any Time

Gaping hole in Google service exposes thousands to ID theft: Vast number of car insurance at risk by flow

How (and why) to surf the web in secret

Do Not Track finally arrives with Version 23 of Chrome

Megaupload Case Has Far-Reaching Implications for Cloud-Data Ownership Rights

How one law student is making facebook get serious about privacy

For those of you who celebrate American holidays, we want to wish you a very happy & healthy Thanksgiving holiday. We hope you spend it with those close to you and safe travels to your destination.

Until next time – stay ‘private’ my friends…

How SpiderOak is Fighting for Privacy on the Legislative Level

Regardless of who wins the White House at the close of the election, we as Americans do need to think about how we are going to engage, relate, relinquish control of our privacy in this Internet age.

Among the many advantages the Internet provides is the ability to collect, track and report on movements from what webpages we visit, what we buy, where we go, our hobbies, likes, dislikes, and so on. Should the power to abdicate this privacy be placed in the hands of Google, Facebook, eBay and others who will operate in their own best interest? OR should the government pass legislation that protects the rights of our privacy online and what 3rd party companies can and cannot use without our permission? These are important questions that have longer term implications for us all.

As a company founded and focused on privacy, we feel it is our responsibility to be outspoken on this all important issue. As such, please see our recent press release below and we will share further efforts on this topic moving forward:


SpiderOak to Legislators: New Policies Urgently Needed to Protect Online Privacy

Mobile Applications, Web Browsing, Gaming and Social Media Are Being Monetized for Profit — at the Expense of Consumer Privacy

SAN FRANCISCO, CA, Nov 01, 2012 — SpiderOak, the ‘zero-knowledge’ privacy cloud backup, sync and sharing provider, is urging legislators to put a priority on passing legislation to protect online privacy. In a world where every interaction has an online component, online privacy rights are consistently being neglected or outright ignored.

SpiderOak CEO Ethan Oberman believes now is the time for legislators to address this critical issue. Consumers’ mobile activity, online Web browsing, gaming and social media are being monitored and recorded by companies without opt-in permission (and in some cases without permissions at all). These companies then sell the users’ data without user knowledge and for significant profit.

60 percent of the most popular online websites violate advertising industry best practices by, among other activities, hosting cookies that collect and enable the sale of personal data [1]. Online ad revenues reached $17 billion in the first half of 2012, a 14 percent increase over the same period in 2011 [2]. Facebook alone made a profit of $1.20 per user in 2011, in part by selling the personal data of its 850 million users [3].

“Privacy is a basic human right. To date — however — major online players such as Google and Facebook have been ignoring that fact,” said Ethan Oberman, CEO of SpiderOak. “Lobbying groups are circling the wagons — intent on preventing the government from passing legislation that protects the privacy rights of consumers and companies alike. The social contract to ‘do no harm’ needs to be refreshed before it is too late. There is no reason why companies can’t be transparent about the information they are collecting, develop fully opt-in strategies and earn a profit all at the same time.”

Private information is a valuable business and companies show no signs of halting their for-profit surveillance. No wonder lobbying organizations like the DMA Data-Driven Marketing Institute are contributing millions of dollars to fight privacy legislation [4].

“SpiderOak has blazed a trail in online privacy by proving users can still enjoy all the benefits of cloud technologies without having to sacrifice the value of their content to anyone and for any reason,” said Oberman. “The steps we’ve taken towards greater transparency and privacy is a beacon for the rest of the industry to follow. We urge the government to pass legislation, such as Do-Not-Track, that will empower and protect users — giving them rights well within the traditions of this great country.”

SpiderOak’s industry-leading ‘Zero-Knowledge’ Privacy Standard takes a holistic approach to privacy that affords the complete protection of user data. File backup, synchronization, and storage are encrypted throughout every stage; SpiderOak never stores the plaintext version of a user’s encryption keys (or password). Even those with direct physical access to the storage servers — such as SpiderOak staff — cannot view any portion of a user’s content including folder names, filenames or file sizes. The complete protection of data is thus ensured.


[1] World Privacy Forum.

[2] MIT Technology Review, “Online Advertising Poised to Finally Surpass Print,” 17 October 2012.

[3] ITP, “Facebook Scores $1.20 Profit Per User,” 2 February 2012.

[4] The Hill,“Advertisers Launch $1 Million Campaign to Combat Privacy Concerns,” 15 October 2012.

Read original press release on MarketWatch.

Announcing the winners of our Halloween Photo Caption Contest: ‘Your Online Privacy’

It was hard for our team to choose three winners from last week’s Halloween Photo Caption Contest around the theme ‘Your Online Privacy.’ We’re happy to announce the top three that we felt best fit the criteria:

#1 New iPad mini: Stephanie

“This is Zara. She used to be a regular human being before her online privacy was invaded by third parties like Google. SpiderOak can help protect you from falling into their traps. Save your souls… and your brains. Get SpiderOak.”

#2 Free 100 GB: Jon

“Even after eating your brains she won’t be able to get into your SpiderOak account. SpiderOak. Sync. Share. Access. Backup. Zombie Protection.”

#3 SpiderOak T-shirt: Keith

“One of many SpiderOak system administrators. (Thank goodness for Zero-Knowledge privacy!)”

Thanks again to everyone to joined us for the contest and above all for your vigilance around online privacy.

Keep an eye out: this coming month we will offer a special deal on storage, launch our new Zero-Knowledge Ambassador program, reveal customer testimonials and continue to highlight the importance of privacy.

Privacy Roundup – 2nd Edition

As mentioned during my previous ‘Roundup’ sent out on the 19th of October, we at SpiderOak want to continually emphasize the importance of privacy and how it impacts our daily life. Welcome to the second edition of our ‘Privacy Roundup’ and we look forward to hearing your thoughts and ideas on how and why privacy matters to you.

With no further ado, here we go:

The Horrible Future of Social – Ted Nyman

Are you on Facebook? Check out MyPermissions now. Seriously, just do it.

California attorney general sends privacy warnings to app makers – The

Facebook turns off automatic facial recognition software for all European users in victory for privacy campaigners

Telefónica wants to turn customer data into cash

Yahoo Dings “Do Not Track” Default (And Search Partner Microsoft)

Washington Post: Yes, We Need To Give Up Liberty For Security

Lastly, we enjoy including companies that – like us – take a proactive stance on the importance of privacy. This week we are happy to announce a company newly launched that allows for private communication from voice conversations to text messages. Please take a moment to have a look:

Silent Circle

Please don’t hesitate to send additional thoughts or articles as we very much enjoy hearing from you and your thinking on the various topics mentioned above. Have a great weekend…

Thanks for your entries, contest winners to be announced Monday

Due to the overwhelming response to our Halloween Photo Caption Contest this week, it is going to take us a few days longer to vote on our three winners. We had originally planned on announcing them yesterday, but will now do so on Monday.

A huge thanks to all who participated! We thoroughly enjoyed all of your humorous captions around ‘Your Online Privacy’ that streamed in on Facebook, Twitter, and as comments on the blog.

Stay tuned!

The SpiderOak Team