Towards Transparency

Jon Zieger, September 28, 2012

Over the past few years, a number of companies we admire—among them, Google, Twitter, and GitHub—have taken significant steps to increase awareness of the effects of the legal process on their users.

Stripe handles payments, but we believe similar thinking can be applied here too. Today we’re announcing two steps in this area:

First, we’re partnering with Chilling Effects. Developed at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society, Chilling Effects is run by the EFF and law clinics at Harvard, Stanford, Berkeley, and other universities across the country. Chilling Effects tracks the use of cease-and-desist notices to gauge the impact of legal threats to online expression. This database of notices provides important empirical data concerning the real-world effects of laws and policies.

From now on, whenever a third party sends a legal request for us to stop working with a user, we will pass a copy of the request to Chilling Effects. (We will, however, first give the user the chance to opt out of this disclosure.) Reporting take-down requests is standard practice at Google, Twitter, and GitHub today. Since Stripe is the first payments company to do this, Chilling Effects is creating a new category to track these requests.

Second, we’re updating our privacy policy to align with emerging internet best-practices. Specifically, we’re adding a clause that commits us (when possible) to first notify the user if we’re legally compelled by a litigant or government to disclose a user’s private information. The point of this notice is to give users the chance to contest the disclosure if they wish. As with publicizing take-down notices, this notification is becoming common when user data is in question, and we’re happy to join companies like Dropbox and Twitter in providing this protection for our users’ personal information.

These issues rarely arise, and there’s no particular situation that makes this timely. We simply want to implement the right policies as early as possible, and we intend to build on these steps over time. For example, we’re thinking about ways to make data and statistics available in this area, such as what Google has done with their Transparency Report.

Our goal with Stripe is to help build the economic infrastructure of the internet. Economic infrastructure, like other fundamental layers of the internet, requires trust and transparency. We hope these policies increase both.