Thursday, August 07, 2008

Your Privacy Online

So there is big 'shift' towards the 'cloud' in the industry nowadays. Everyone has started to provide (really good) server based services, whether its for your contacts, documents, email, pictures, storage and even the more niche things like your browser favorites, your search history, things like notes, snippets, your friends and their friends.

Most of the companies providing these services have a pretty clear privacy policy, which basically states that they won't be viewing any personal information unless they are obliged to do so. They treat it fairly well, and don't generally release the information unless it becomes absolutely necessary. Companies like google even take it to the court to not release this information.

However, at the end of the day, your information is with a company and it is in the hands of that company to decide what to do with it. You have absolutely no control over it. At a lot of places, it is replicated across machines for disaster recovery, and might never ever get physically deleted. If you read Google's privacy policy, it does not say that it deletes everything you tell it to delete! Yahoo's privacy policy is similar, but have more clearly defined that it takes 90 days to delete your data, but some of it might be in their archives forever. So if you delete an email that you don't like, chances are, it can be brought back to life with enough motivation to do so. Also, despite of the best intentions, information has been leaked numerous times even by respectable companies.

Sometimes, I just want to delete an email and never think that its still there somewhere. This is not possible anymore. So, before you use any online service, be prepared to realize that there is a slight chance it will become public.