In a scathing review, Robert Scoble takes Glassmap (no relation to Glassboard whatsoever) to task over posting items to his Facebook feed. He goes on to criticize developers who do this, saying it is an attempt to build virality into their apps.
I don’t personally hold it against other developers for building that functionality into their apps. To be honest it would be great to have that as part of Glassboard, because we would love to go viral and have a bazillian users. But it just doesn’t jive with our views on sharing. We built Glassboard to give you complete control over who sees what. As much as we want to reach all of your friends, and your friends’ friends, and your friend’s hot mom, we don’t feel it’s right to do it for you.
So never fear dear Glassboard users, we’ll do our best to not “crap on your feeds.” Still, that won’t stop me from asking you to Like Glassboard on Facebook
…you don’t really have a privacy.
What you care about, I’m guessing, is being surprised. You don’t want to be surprised to discover that the card company is sending you gift certificates for VD testing because you’ve been staying at hourly motels.
- Seth Godin, in The Illusion of Privacy
I think Seth’s missing something here.
If a stranger stopped you on the street and said “Hey, I hear you go to Fluid Coffee a lot, you should try a mocha next time you go!” how would you feel? Surprised, sure, but maybe angry too? I know I would. And I wouldn’t be feeling that way because the person surprised me. It would be because of the implication behind that interaction; the implication that someone was following me around, noting my movements and habits, and then selling that information to others. I don’t care about the surprise, it’ll be gone in a minute. I care about the ongoing violation of privacy that was just revealed.
Sure, I know that the credit card company has all that data about me. What I don’t know is what they’re doing with it. In my opinion what they should be doing is tracking it for financial record keeping, and nothing else. What they shouldn’t be doing is mining it, profiling it, snooping around after me like a virtual private detective, and building a dossier to sell to the VD testing company.
This sort of snooping has become increasingly common. It’s almost impossible to avoid in “free” products that are advertising-supported, that’s just the nature of the business model. But I think we have a right to expect better from services that we’re paying for. I think when you’re buying a product from a company, you have the right to expect that the company is not also selling you as a product.
The software community, particularly social software, has a spotty privacy record. Many developers have violated their users’ privacy to create their business model, or to create a cool feature, or even just by accident. We try very hard not to be one of those developers, or let Glassboard be one of those pieces of software. We maintain your privacy as much as we possibly can. That means a few things to us.
We keep all our data collection above board. That means we’re not collecting any private information about you that you don’t know about. We’re not uploading your phone book, downloading your email contacts or sending messages to your friends (unless you ask us to). We ask you about yourself and your friends, but we don’t snoop around trying to figure it out.
The information we do collect we try very hard to keep safe. We use quite a bit of encryption in Glassboard. We use encrypted communications for everything you send us, and much of the data we keep is stored in an encrypted format. That keeps it hidden from any potential hackers.
That also keeps your messages safe from us. Nobody here at SepiaLabs can read your messages any more than those hypothetical hackers*. We don’t let anyone else read your messages either – that’s why there are no ads in Glassboard.
Of course we do collect and keep some personal information about you. But we keep it to a bare minimum – here’s the entire list:
- An email address. This is the only thing we absolutely require and actually verify.
- Your name, but you can use a pseudonym if you want to. We don’t pull it from your phone or check it.
- Your phone number, if you like. We don’t pull it from your phone.
- Your profile picture, if you choose to upload one.
- What kind of device you’re using (iOS, Android, or WinPhone)
- What version of the Glassboard app you have
That’s it. We don’t store any other personally identifiable information about you. Of course we have information like your statuses and comments, but it’s all encrypted and not identifiable to you.
We do track some anonymized statistics. That means we know things like how many people used Glassboard yesterday, and how many messages they sent, and how many people who signed up last January are still using Glassboard. But we don’t know if you used Glassboard yesterday, or how many message you have sent.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is that we want to provide a great group communication app. We collect the minimum amount of information we need to do that, don’t sneak around to try to get more and information, and carefully protect the information we do collect.
* – About that asterisk earlier: Of course it is technically possible for us to decrypt your data – otherwise nobody in your boards would be able to read your messages! If we are issued a legal order to surrender your data to the government, we’ll have to comply with it. But getting at your data is a multistep process involving several keys, not something we can casually or accidentally do. It’s a little like when you see them launching nuclear missiles in a movie – except without the flashing red lights at the beginning or the mushroom clouds at the end.