The Patriot Act and Customer Service

I. Mac and Linux computers come with a command called “rsync” that makes backup and synchronization easy. Every morning before work I synchronize my 4 year old dying Powerbook to my iMac at work. When I get home, I synchronize back. This way, I get my same mail, documents, and music wherever I am, and if something were to happen to one computer, I’d have a backup. I synchronize over the Internet, but I know a local guy that synchronizes to his iPod so he can physically carry his updates in and out of the office.

canaries.jpg
Photo by quimby

II. At work, we’ve begun using a service called rsync.net for backup. We synchronize our files to their service and pay them $1.60 per gigabyte per month. It’s a pretty inexpensive way to do backup, and it’s nice to have the backup offsite. The rsync.net engineers with whom I’ve spoken have been top notch.

For privacy, we actually use a derivative of rsync called “duplicity”, which encrypts our data before storing them at rsync.net. Their website explains how to use duplicity and other encryption techniques, but I thought it was particularly interesting to find they publish a “warrant canary”. Because the Patriot Act allows the service of secret warrants for the search and seizure of data, and criminal penalties for failing to maintain secrecy, rsync.net publishes a weekly declaration that they haven’t been served a warrant:

rsync.net will also make available, weekly, a “warrant canary” in the form of a cryptographically signed message containing the following:

– a declaration that, up to that point, no warrants have been served, nor have any searches or seizures taken place

– a cut and paste headline from a major news source, establishing date

Special note should be taken if these messages ever cease being updated, or are removed from this page.

Source: rsync.net Warrant Canary

If the “canary” dies, you’re supposed to close shop and get out.

I don’t know the legal implications of a warrant canary, but it seems like a particularly unique example of putting the customer first!

2 thoughts on “The Patriot Act and Customer Service”

  1. One of my favorite customer service quotes is “The way to gain a good reputation, is to endeavor to be what you desire to appear.” -SOCRATES

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