Network Reports and your privacy - just to be clear...
Privacy, especially as it relates to the Internet, is a scary topic. It is more and more difficult each day to understand what personal information you are leaving around as you wander the infinite corridors of the Internet. It seems that every week we read about another laptop full of personal data that has been stolen. You have every right to be concerned about this.
I would like talk a bit about the Network Reports feature of Network Magic and the privacy issues it brings out. We want to do whatever is necessary to clarify our position on privacy and let you know what our products actually do.
Prior to developing and shipping Network Magic 4.1 we did a ton of research on the right way to implement Network Reports. The overwhelming feedback was that emailing the reports was the best and most valuable approach for our customers. Getting the reports from any computer, whether at home or at work, seemed to be a valuable feature. In order to do this, we either had to figure out how to send email from the customer computer, or collect the information we need to generate the report, send it to our servers for processing and email it from there. The tradeoff was the agony of trying to send email from a consumer’s computer vs. potential privacy issues. Given the seemingly infinite methods for sending email, there didn’t seem to be a solution that would work consistently in millions of homes.
When we send the data from a home network to our servers, it is sent in a way that prevents it from being read without a heck of a lot of work. There are far easier ways for someone to get information regarding a consumer's Internet behavior than trying to capture this traffic off of the Internet and put it back into a readable form.
Once we have created the network report and sent it on to the customer, we keep the data around only as long as the consumer might need to regenerate the report. I am vague on this period on purpose, as we are constantly evaluating usage to determine if and when customers want to see old reports. We currently keep it about a week, and then it is deleted forever. We are looking at making this window shorter.
Now it is time for me to be very clear: WE DO NOT USE THIS PRIVATE INFORMATION FOR ANYTHING OTHER THAN THE CREATION OF THE NETWORK REPORT. Pardon the caps, but I want to make sure everyone understands this. We do not look at it, we do not let anyone else look at it, we do not sell it, we will never sell it, we do not loan or rent it to anyone nor will we ever. It remains locked in our very secure servers and is never seen by human eyes. During the brief time we do have the data, we do everything we know how to protect it.
We especially do not put it on laptops and leave the laptops on the front seat of unlocked cars, which seems to be the preferred method of distribution these days for personal information.
We are sending tens of thousands of these network reports daily. While we completely understand the privacy issues and the emotions that can be generated, the customers we have heard from that are concerned with the privacy issue number less than 100 very passionate people. This is not meant to discount the privacy issues in any way, just to put the issue into perspective.
In every case where you have to make a decision about a potential privacy issue, you have to weigh the benefit of the feature against the potential risk. We believe, based on customer feedback thus far, that the privacy risk we create is far outweighed by the benefit of knowing how the computers in your home or small business are being used.
If you opt out of Network Reports, we do not send any of this data to our servers, so if you personally decide that the privacy risk/benefit equation is not what you like, we respect this and encourage you to not use the reporting feature.
Hopefully this helps everyone concerned regarding our policies. I will, as usual, monitor your feedback and am willing to engage in civil conversations regarding our policy and implementation. We are always looking for ways to improve what we are doing, and these forums have been a constant source of great feedback for us.
President & CEO