The Internet never forgets. Starting now, Gimlet can.

In Gimlet, we’ve always encouraged our clients to keep their data free from sensitive or identifying information. But from time to time, we’ve noticed personal data slip in to the database. And once it’s in, finding it and cleaning it out by hand is nearly impossible. So! To help you keep your (and your patrons’) digital lives free of radioactive sludge, we’ve added a new feature: the Gimlet Privacy Guard.

With this feature, you can choose an amount of time (between 30 and 365 days), and after that time, we’ll automatically clear the Question and Answer fields from your entries. After 28 days, our backups are automatically purged, and that radioactive data will be gone. Completely.

Other fields (your stats categories, tags, and timestamps) won’t be touched — so you’ll still be able to see reporting trends dating back to the dawn of time. The main thing you’ll notice is that, since the question and answer text has been cleared, the search feature won’t find these questions anymore.

A bit more background

As we go through our online lives, we leave behind a trail of data about our personal lives. In our Gmail inboxes. Our Amazon purchase history. Our Facebook profiles. The catalogs of the libraries we visit.

Tech companies are terrified of losing this data, because losing customers’ data is bad for business — but also because this data is valuable. Data lets companies train machine learning programs, so they can tell which emails are spam, make better guesses at what you want to buy, and know that you always want to read the status updates from your secret Facebook crush.1 And a large segment of the tech industry is built around selling data about your behavior to the highest bidder. (We here at Gimlet will never, ever do this. Your data is yours.)

All of this data piles up endlessly. One person aptly compared this data to the radioactive waste generated by nuclear power plants. As long as it stays safely contained and no one uses it for evil, it’s safe enough. At some point, however, private data is going to escape its confines and bad things will ensue.

For example: Did you know all of the data in Gimlet is available to the United States government, without a warrant, through a National Security Letter? If we were to receive one of these letters, we wouldn’t even be able to tell anyone except our lawyer. These days, trusting your online data will stay private means trusting the United States government — whoever may be in charge.

We take the custody of your data very seriously, and we know that giving clients this option means someone might accidentally delete something important. At the same time, part of taking care of your data means giving you the power to clean up the sensitive patron data that might slip into your database. Every online service provider should give you this ability. It’s the right thing to do.

See the documentation for more details on how to turn your Data Cleaner on and add a bit of ice from the river Lethe to your Gimlet.

If you have any questions or comments, let us know.

  1. Yes, Facebook knows.