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Ask Slashdot: Best Practices For Collecting and Storing User Information? 120

New submitter isaaccs writes "I'm a mobile developer at a startup. My experience is in building user-facing applications, but in this case, a component of an app I'm building involves observing and collecting certain pieces of user information and then storing them in a web service. This is for purposes of analysis and ultimately functionality, not persistence. This would include some obvious items like names and e-mail addresses, and some less obvious items involving user behavior. We aim to be completely transparent and honest about what it is we're collecting by way of our privacy disclosure. I'm an experienced developer, and I'm aware of a handful of considerations (e.g., the need to hash personal identifiers stored remotely), but I've seen quite a few startups caught with their pants down on security/privacy of what they've collected — and I'd like to avoid it to the degree reasonably possible given we can't afford to hire an expert on the topic. I'm seeking input from the community on best-practices for data collection and the remote storage of personal (not social security numbers, but names and birthdays) information. How would you like information collected about you to be stored? If you could write your own privacy policy, what would it contain? To be clear, I'm not requesting stack or infrastructural recommendations."
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Ask Slashdot: Best Practices For Collecting and Storing User Information?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 11, 2012 @12:31AM (#41296375)

    Agreed. People mistake this for a technical forum.

  • by IBitOBear ( 410965 ) on Tuesday September 11, 2012 @12:36AM (#41296407) Homepage Journal

    I have been toying with a site idea. Your account name is your public key fingerprint. You public nicname is whatever you use in the message. Your login is validated because everything you send is signed wiht the key that matches the fingerprint (and encrypted with my public key for transmision). Input to user form is constrained and validated within those constraints (to prevent padding attacks).

    I would then have a database "key x","paid through date y".

    Sure, I couldn't sell any farmed data a-la facebook, but suppoena requests woudl be a breze... "here's your hex dump..."

  • Re:Just don't do it (Score:4, Interesting)

    by CodeBuster ( 516420 ) on Tuesday September 11, 2012 @03:08AM (#41296949)
    Whenever I'm signing up for a new site or using a service for the first time, I always do a recon of their sign up procedures using a fake name / email address so I can see what sort of information they "require" before I even get started and even then I only give up what I absolutely have to. If I can get away with using the fake information permanently, then I do that. I keep track of all my fake identities in an encrypted file container by site name so that I can be consistent with my aliases. This strategy works well for me and I'm sure that I can't be the only person out there who does this. As Robert De Niro's character, Jack Byrnes, said in Meet the Fokkers (paraphrased), "If you're outside the circle of trust, you're on a need to know basis and right now you don't need to know."
  • Re:Just don't do it (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jittles ( 1613415 ) on Tuesday September 11, 2012 @10:05AM (#41299211)

    >Burying the collection of personal data in the middle of some lawyerly gobblygook privacy statement is like mortgage lenders burying key terms in the middle of 100's of pages of documentation. Yeah, it's legally there but no one is actually going to read or understand it.

    When I bought my house, I spent about 3 hours at the title company reading and signing the mountain of paperwork. I would never commit myself to 30 years of anything without knowing and understanding the details. I will say that the notary was pissed. After 30 minutes she said "Are you really going to read the entire thing?" And later "I have an appointment, you're going to make me late." My responses were "Yes, I'd be stupid not to." and "You scheduled this entire block with me, its not my fault you double booked yourself, you'll have to cancel your other appointment."

MESSAGE ACKNOWLEDGED -- The Pershing II missiles have been launched.