GDPR implementation part 8: “Personal data” in the EU and the US is not the same

We usually think of “personal data” as a term that contains for instance a person’s full name, home address, email address, telephone number, and date of birth.

These are ordinary data that can obviously identify a specific person. But in the personal data category of linked personal information are also data such as social security number, passport number, and credit card numbers – data that can identify us, and data we usually feel more restrictive about.

Linkable and non-linkable information

But there is another category of data that on its own may not be able to identify a person, but combined with other information could identify, trace, or locate a person. Such data are gender, race, sexual orientation, workplace, employment etc. These are examples of linkable personal information.

Then we have the category non-personally identifiable information. That is data that cannot be used on its own to identify or trace a person, for example IP addresses, cookies, device IDs, and software IDs (non-linkable personal information).

Privacy regulations differ in the EU and the US

Now, we know that there are industries that exist almost under the radar while taking advantage of personal data. For instance, companies in the AdTech and MarTech industry base their business on collecting and trading personal data for targeted advertising and marketing.

Many of these actors try to take protection of personal data seriously, and refer to the rules and regulations for processing personal data. In Europe this is the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) within the EU/EEA-area1, and in the US it is the responsibility of the FTC (Federal Trade Commission).

However, what the EU/GDPR and US government agencies mean by “personal data” is different. Specifically, the definition by EU/GDPR is more comprehensive than the definition often referenced by US agencies, such as that of NIST (National Institute of Technology).

For example, the EU concept of personal data includes information such as cookies and IP addresses, which are not considered as personal data in a US setting.2

This means that if US websites in their privacy policy state that they are GDPR compliant, but combine their data with other data sets, they may breach the GDPR. For example, they must have the user’s consent to collect their IP address under the GDPR.

Definitions of “personal data”

National Institute of Technology’s definition

NIST’s definition of personal data is contained in the definition of Personal Identifiable Information (PII):

PII is any information about an individual maintained by an agency, including (1) any information that can be used to distinguish or trace an individual‘s identity, such as name, social security number, date and place of birth, mother‘s maiden name, or biometric records; and (2) any other information that is linked or linkable to an individual, such as medical, educational, financial, and employment information.

US Office of Privacy and Open Government’s definition

Another PII-definition is from the US Office of Privacy and Open Government (OPOG) as follows:

The term personally identifiable information refers to information which can be used to distinguish or trace an individual’s identity, such as their name, social security number, biometric records, etc. alone, or when combined with other personal or identifying information which is linked or linkable to a specific individual, such as date and place of birth, mother’s maiden name, etc.

EU’s GDPR definition

Compare these PII-definitions with the GDPR Article 4(1)’s definition of personal data:

‘personal data’ means any information relating to an identified or identifiable natural person (‘data subject’); an identifiable natural person is one who can be identified, directly or indirectly, in particular by reference to an identifier such as a name, an identification number, location data, an online identifier or to one or more factors specific to the physical, physiological, genetic, mental, economic, cultural or social identity of that natural person;

It is obvious that GDPR defines personal data much broader than both NIST’s and OPOG’s PII, and this is underlined by this statement found in GDPR’s Recital 30:

Natural persons may be associated with online identifiers provided by their devices, applications, tools and protocols, such as internet protocol addresses, cookie identifiers or other identifiers such as radio frequency identification tags. This may leave traces which, in particular when combined with unique identifiers and other information received by the servers, may be used to create profiles of the natural persons and identify them.

The US is lacking comprehensive regulation

That said, US authorities are moving towards stronger protection of privacy and personal data, but as late as March 2019, the US Congressional Research Service says:

Despite the increased interest in data protection, the legal paradigms governing the security and privacy of personal data are complex and technical, and lack uniformity at the federal level. The Supreme Court has recognized that the Constitution provides various rights protecting individual privacy, but these rights generally guard only against government intrusions and do little to prevent private actors from abusing personal data online. At the federal statutory level, while there are a number of data protection statutes, they primarily regulate certain industries and subcategories of data. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) fills in some of the statutory gaps by enforcing the federal prohibition against unfair and deceptive data protection practices. But no single federal law comprehensively regulates the collection and use of personal data (our emphasis).

Conclusion

When US websites claim to follow the rules for processing personal data it is dubious at best, compared to the regulations in the EU/EEA – which the Norwegian legislation is based on and is what Runbox adheres to.

However, it should be mentioned that some US states, for instance California, do classify some anonymous data (i.e. IP-addresses, aliases and account data) as PII.

In addition, as stated in our Privacy Policy, the personal data we ask customers to register in order to use our service is very limited. We are conscious about the trust our customers place in us when they register personal data in our systems, and in return we can demonstrate that we are compliant with the regulations.

Addendum

Above we referred to the AdTech and MarTech industries and their usage of personal data to identify, trace, or locate a person for advertising and marketing purposes. That topic is outside the scope of this blog post, but is absolutely worth writing about in a later post.

1 EEA = European Economic Area, that is the EU and three countries: Iceland, Lichtenstein, and Norway.

2 https://www.forbrukerradet.no/out-of-control/ footnote on page 102.

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Our pledge to planet Earth for 2020 and beyond

Cumulative vertebrate species recorded as extinct or extinct in the wild by the IUCN (2012)

We are living at a time unprecedented on Earth.

The year 2019 has confirmed that humanity’s collective activities have pushed Earth’s ecosystems towards the boundaries of what they can sustain.

In fact, for many ecosystems and species the boundary has already been crossed, and species are now vanishing at a rate higher than ever before in recorded history.

The realized threat of global warming

In addition to more obvious drivers of species extinction such as over-exploitation of natural resources and habitat loss caused by agriculture and other land development, the greatest immediate threat to the existing biosphere is global warming.

However, in spite of repeated and increasingly dire warnings from the scientific community for more than a century, greenhouse gas emissions from human activities have increased dramatically and continue to do so.

Already in 1896, Swedish scientist Svante Arrhenius (1859-1927) stated that a doubling of CO2 in the atmosphere would result in a global temperature increase of 5–6°C. Arrhenius’ results are in fact very close to our current climate models.

The benchmark for CO2 content in the atmosphere is the pre-industrial time, that is before about 1750, when the CO2 content is estimated to have been about 280 ppm (parts per million).

Global Atmospheric CO2 since pre-industrial times

By 2017, the annual global average CO2 levels exceeded 400 ppm, which corresponds to the limit of 1.5°C set by the IPCC for keeping the climate changes under safe control. As of November 2019, this number has passed 410 ppm.

Last time the CO2 concentration was that high, horses and camels roamed the high Arctic and sea levels were at least 30 feet higher than today.

The fact that these changes are now happening more rapidly than in recorded history thus far means that many species and ecosystems that make up the biosphere are unable to adapt quickly enough.

A climate spinning out of control

The chemical composition of the atmosphere and the oceans are undergoing dramatic changes with accelerating positive feedback loops involving not only CO2 but methane, nitrogen, and sulfur as well as several other essential components.

These changes are causing the Earth’s biogeochemical cycles, and therefore the climate, to spin out of control.

When the Earth’s temperature increases and its distribution is altered, it affects geophysical systems such as prevailing wind patterns and ocean currents — the global conveyor belt responsible for carrying salt, nutrients, and other essential chemical components upon which marine life depends.

The warmer climate not only melts sea ice and increases sea levels, but heats up wetland peat and thaws tundra in arctic regions which releases additional methane into the atmosphere.

Warmer oceans also absorb less oxygen, which leads to more anaerobic bacteria that produce toxic hydrogen sulfide gases that could have disastrous effects on existing organic life.

These global feedback systems and cycles are so large and complex that it can take decades or centuries for the consequences of our current emissions to take full effect.

This means that we are tipping the balance of the natural systems we depend on for survival and are pushing them to dangerous and unpredictable levels with possibly irreversible effects.

As a result the living Earth itself is turning into an unfamiliar environment that will be detrimental to life as we have known it.

The human race is heading for a disaster — a warned catastrophe, that is — and the entire remaining biosphere is at stake.

The consequences are already upon us

We are ending a year that has seen the most dramatic effects of climate change thus far, closing a decade with increasingly noticeable consequences of continually growing greenhouse gas emissions.

The direct effects are well-known by now and include physical impacts like the melting of ice sheets and subsequent sea level rise, as well as changes in ocean currents and weather patterns.

These impacts in turn lead to increased droughts, heat waves, and uncontrollable wildfires, as well as extreme flooding, cyclones, blizzards, and rainstorms with inevitable crop failures and global fish stock depletion as a result.

In addition to the catastrophic loss of biodiversity, the accelerating changes in our natural environment lead to regional famine, mass migrations, conflicts, and war between peoples fighting for dwindling resources.

Current mitigation plans are inadequate

According to the UN’s Climate Action Summit report we have until 2030 to cut CO2 emissions by 45% in order to limit global warming to 1.5°C . This entails a global average reduction of 4.5% per year over the next 10 years, while emissions on average have increased 1.5% annually in recent years.

This may not sound like much, but in reality it constitutes an enormous challenge on a scale unlike any we have successfully undertaken in the past.

The bottom line is that every person, every organization, every business, and every government have to do their uttermost to reduce their ecological footprint.

Although governments, large industrial companies, and international institutions can do the most to reduce hydrocarbon dependency and restore the depletion of natural resources that is taking place, even small contributions will have an effect — but we are short on time.

Our commitment

At Runbox we have decided to have a positive impact on the planet and our environment, and we want to achieve this with a net negative ecological footprint.

We will take responsibility in several different ways, and have implemented the first version of our Environmental Policy to this end.

In our policy we commit to reducing our ecological footprint as much as possible through reducing, reusing, and recycling the resources we utilize.

This includes our data center, servers and other equipment we acquire, where we source our hardware, how we use and power our office spaces, and the communication and transportation involved in our operations.

For the greenhouse gas emissions that do result from our operations and activities we shall compensate doubly.

We will accomplish this by funding the planting of trees through OneTreePlanted sufficient to absorbing twice the amount of greenhouse gas emissions we are responsible for.

Planting trees is the best existing method of capturing carbon from the atmosphere, and has several other beneficial side-effects as well. So we will support rewilding the forests in order to restore and protect ecosystems, our natural environment, and a habitable climate.

We will also encourage partners, stakeholders, and associates to become more environmentally friendly. Furthermore, we will push for the development and implementation of green and renewable technologies and help encourage governments to become more environmentally responsible.

We are extending our commitment to provide free email services to non-profit organizations with an environmentally oriented profile.

We hope to inspire other companies to adopt similar policies and contribute to a positive impact on the only planet we can call home.

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GDPR implementation part 7: Information and Tools for Implementation of Users’ Rights

GDPR

One of the main objectives for the European Union (EU) when they developed the replacement for the Data Protection Directive 95/46 (from 1995), was to expand individual control over the use of personal data.

This can be seen in a broader view as an implementation of the right to one’s private life, as laid down in the European Convention on Human Rights (Article 8). The right to respect for one’s private and family life is also stated in the EU Treaty on Fundamental Rights (Article 7).

Norway has signed both of these agreements, and the Constitution of Norway implements these rights in Article 100 and 102 of the Constitution and in the Norwegian Human Rights Act.

Already in GDPR1 Article 1 we see the connection between the GDPR and especially the Treaty on Fundamental Rights:

This Regulation protects fundamental rights and freedoms of natural persons and in particular their right to the protection of personal data

Article 1-2 of the GDPR

Observe the expression “rights and freedoms of natural persons“, which is very important throughout the Regulation and is used 31 times in all.

Before we go further into the subject of this post, it is important to state that Norway’s legislation on the processing of personal data was already compliant with the GDPR before the latter was declared as the new framework for the legislation in Norway. The Norwegian Personal Data Act (PDA2), as compliant with the GDPR, tok effect 20 July 2018.

First and foremost, the GDPR states that no processing of personal data shall be done unless the data subject has given consent (Article 6-1, a). Runbox obtains consent to registration of our users’ personal data when they sign up for an account and accept our Terms of Service.

The GDPR (Article 6-1, ff.) allows a controller – that is Runbox in our context – to process personal data when there is a legitimate reason for doing so, i.e. something that is necessary to use our services.

It is an important objective for the GDPR to secure one’s control of one’s own personal data. In this respect, the GDPR has given the data subjects eight fundamental rights (Article 15—17).

When implementing these rights in Runbox, we found that most of those were already there. However, the introduction of the GDPR provided us with a checklist and the opportunity to analyze our status, and to improve our services in this respect.

Our Privacy Policy provides exhaustive information about how we process personal data, but here is an overview of the data subject’s rights, and our implementation of them:

  • The right to access (Article 15): Since Runbox does not collect other types of information than what the users register by themselves, they can easily check which personal data is processed. The data processing is only done in order to process your emails, and optionally your web site and domain name.
  • The right to rectification (Article 16): You may at any time log in to your email account and change your personal information.
  • The right to erasure (‘right to be forgotten’) (Article 17): You may terminate your subscription any time, and your account contents will subsequently be deleted after 6 months. Your personal details data will be deleted after 5 years in accordance with Norwegian accounting regulations. However, you may send a request to dataprotectionofficer@nullrunbox.com for immediate erasure of your account contents.
  • The right to restriction of processing (Article 18): Runbox will never use your personal information for purposes other than providing our services to you, so restrictions are not necessary in our context.
  • The right to be informed (Article 19): Runbox uses your personal information only in order to provide our services to you..
  • The right to data portability (Article 20): In case that you wish to move to another email service provider and export your data, you will find information on how to do this through our services and documentation.
  • The right to object (Article 21): Since we never will use your personal data for other purposes than to deliver the services you have agreed to, this right is implicitly fulfilled.
  • The right to individual decision-making (Article 22): This article is intended to protect data subjects against automated data-processing that might involve profiling them based on personally identifiable information, which is something Runbox doesn’t do.

Regarding questions or concerns about our implementation of the GDPR, customers may use the email address dataprotectionofficer@nullrunbox.com as a direct channel to our appointed Data Protection Officer.

Some final remarks about consent: Runbox uses cookies in order to provide our services, and new users must give express consent to this on our signup page. On this page, and on the Account page once logged in, you may also give/revoke consent to future news and offers from Runbox.

In our next post in this series, we will consider our contractual situation regarding GDPR requirements. Stay tuned.

Footnotes

1. The GDPR means Regulation EU 2016/679 of 27 April 2016 on the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data, and repealing Directive 95/46 / EC General Data Protection, General Data Processing Regulation. Article refers to Article in the GDPR, unless stated otherwise.

2. The Personal Data Act (the PDA) means the regulations that are currently in force in Norway for the protection of individuals in connection with the processing of personal data, which includes the implementation of GDPR in Norway (2018-07-20).

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Security improvements to our services

At Runbox we are continuously working to improve the security of our services. We are now strengthening the security of your web browser’s connection to our servers to ensure that it utilizes modern web security standards.

If you are using an updated version of one of the major web browsers such as Firefox, Chrome, Safari, Opera, and Edge you will probably not notice any effects. You can then continue using our services just like before, while knowing that the strongest encryption protocols are being utilized.

If you’re using a non-standard or not updated web browser, then please read the information below for more details about these changes and how they may affect you.

Those who are interested in the technical details of these changes may also find this information useful.

What we are doing

When you visit our website the connection between your web browser and our web servers is encrypted. This means that no one can intercept your username, password or any other transmitted data including the content of your email messages.

It’s important to use a modern browser that supports modern encryption methods to prevent that encryption from being broken and compromised. This is essential to web security because hackers increasingly use more powerful computers and techniques in their attempts to decrypt data and eavesdrop on unsuspecting users.

In order to ensure that Runbox is providing the latest and most secure encryption between your browser and our service we will therefore end support for outdated encryption methods.

This entails that we will only support the strongest encryption cipher suites that are compatible with most major web browsers.

It also helps us prevent unauthorized access to our servers and helps keep the Runbox services safe for all of our customers.

On December 1, 2019 we will retire some outdated encryption methods and this might affect some older web browsers.

Once these changes are made the TLS protocol version and cipher suites will be the same for all access methods to our email services, including web, POP, IMAP, and SMTP.

The technical details

You don’t need to delve into all the technical details, but we know many customers are interested in this and it is useful for everyone to stay educated about web security.

The changes involve retiring support for TLS (Transport Layer Security) version 1.0 and 1.1, and only provide support TLS 1.2 or later. We will also only support a small suite of strong encryption cipher suites that are recommended by the reputable organizations Mozilla and OWASP.

TLS 1.2 has been around for 10 years so there has been a long time for browsers to adopt the use of this type of encryption. However, you don’t need to understand anything about this to make any necessary changes.

All the cipher suites we will be utilizing are of the type Diffie-Hellman Ephemeral (DHE), which means that a unique cryptographic key is generated each time a new connection is made.

This in turn means that even in the unlikely event that one set of keys is compromised it cannot be used for another connection made from another client (“forward secrecy”).

An updated list of cipher suites that are supported currently include the following:

  • ECDHE-RSA-AES128-GCM-SHA256
  • ECDHE-RSA-AES256-GCM-SHA384
  • DHE-RSA-AES128-GCM-SHA256
  • DHE-RSA-AES256-GCM-SHA384
  • ECDHE-RSA-AES128-SHA256
  • ECDHE-RSA-AES256-SHA384
  • DHE-RSA-AES128-SHA256
  • DHE-RSA-AES256-SHA256

More information about these cipher suites can be found on Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diffie%E2%80%93Hellman_key_exchange

How this may affect you

The vast majority of web browsers already support TLS 1.2 and you are only likely to have a problem if you are using an outdated browser and/or an outdated operating system.

We have tested the following browsers and they all work with the modern encryption that we will use:

  • Firefox
  • Chrome
  • Safari
  • Opera
  • Edge

Many other modern browsers are also likely to work with TLS 1.2 and those listed above are just commonly used ones that we have tested.

What you can do

If you are not using an upgraded version of one of the major web browsers listed above, please upgrade your web browser and/or operating system now. This is the most important action you can take to ensure that your data and communications are secure.

If you’re using a web browser not listed above and are unsure whether it will continue to work with the specifications we have provided, we recommend that you keep one of the major web browsers available as an alternative.

We generally recommend Firefox as it is free, standards compliant, and open source, and therefore reviewed by the security community.

Further help

If you need any further information or help on this issue please contact Runbox Support with details of how we can help you.

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GDPR implementation part 6: Access Control and Permissions

In part 3 of this blog series we described how we mapped the “world” of our operations, including the following components:

  • Server infrastructure, including all servers and other hardware as well as the links between these.
  • Software components that comprise our application stack from the operating system level to the front-end application level.
  • Data networks, including how and where our serves are connected to the Internet, but also the Local Area Network at our premises.
  • Data inventory, i.e. all personal data including customer and employee data, financial records, information about partners/associates, etc.
  • Applications necessary to run the company itself, meaning software that is managerial in nature.

Access control concerns permissions attached to system-related objects. Within each of the components listed above, there may be several sub-objects — servers, software modules, data files, catalogues etc., to which restricted access should be implemented.

Creating an Access Control Table

These objects then form one axis of an Access Control matrix or table (ACT). The other axis of the table include organizational units, broken down into person-related objects, for instance segments or groups, but also individuals, for each unit.

After breaking these objects down to an appropriate level, we attached roles to each of these components. In terms of the GDPR, data processor and data controller are examples of roles to use in this context.

To each of the defined roles, we attached categories of tasks, for instance sysadmin, developer, and support staff tasks.

For our email service systems we found it convenient to structure the system-related objects in 3 main categories:

  • General software.
  • Application software.
  • Personal data.

Within each of these categories there are various numbers of objects, to which access permissions are attached, comprising the Access Control Table for the realm in question. For other realms of our “world” we used a similar approach, resulting in a number of ACTs that implement a principle of least privilege.

With this the groundwork was laid for establishing various mechanisms for implementing the access control regime, in order to secure our most precious pieces of hardware, software, and data.

In our next blog post in this series we will look at Information and Tools for Implementation of Users’ Rights.

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GDPR implementation part 5: Risk Assessment and Gap Analysis

In previous posts in this blog series we have referred to our main planning document, Rules and Regulations for Information Security Management, or RRISM for short, where our road to GDPR compliance started out. In that document we worked out the structure of the project, based on descriptions and definitions of the various components.

Obviously, risk management has to be taken very seriously, and the RRISM lays the groundwork for how we should handle this aspect of information security. The baseline is that risk management is an essential part of the company’s life, and one that comprises all its assets.

Defining and assessing risks

As usual, we first had to agree upon some definitions, and we found the following to be adequate for our purpose — directly from NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology):

Risk is the net negative impact of the exercise of a vulnerability, considering both the probability and the impact of occurrence. Risk management is the process of identifying risk, assessing risk, and taking steps to reduce risk to an acceptable level.

Risk is a function of the likelihood of a given threat-source’s exercising a particular potential vulnerability, and the resulting impact of that adverse event on the organization.

In order to assess risks, we first have to identify possible threats that may exploit vulnerabilities in our systems or our organization.

In short: Risk management shall first and foremost have as objective to protect assets that are at potential risk.

Analyzing assets

Then we outlined the methodology we adopted:

  1. Identify the assets that could be at risk.
  2. Identify possible threats and vulnerabilities.
  3. Identify the possible consequences of each potential vulnerability.

Each threat was characterized by probability and criticality which together gives one of four risk levels: Very High (red), High (orange), Medium (yellow), and Low (green). This helped us decide what we should prioritize regarding improvements, measures, and other actions.

Analyzing our assets we actually found more of these than anticipated, grouped in 21 different asset types, ranging from our customer base, general software in use and our own key business systems, through hardware and communication lines, and employees and partners – and more.

Threat, vulnerability, and gap analysis

Then we reviewed the vulnerability potentials (what could go wrong) for each asset and created scenarios for possible consequences if something happened that exploited a vulnerability.

The question raised thereafter was: Do we have the necessary measures and remedies in place to eliminate the potential vulnerabilities, or mitigate the consequences if things went wrong — or is there a gap?

The next step was to find out what actions should be taken in order to close the gaps in cases where we were not satisfied with the situation, and this will be the topic of future blog posts in this series.

Conclusion

Our mantra through this process has been: Threats we can imagine will sooner or later be reality, but never as we expect them to happen, and never where we expect them.

We live in an ever-changing environment, which means that risks have to be monitored continuously, and so our risk assessment and gap analysis is continually evolving as well.

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GDPR implementation part 4: Information Security Policy

The groundwork for compliancy

Privacy and security has always been a part of the Runbox culture. However, the GDPR project made it clear to us that we had to systematically work through how to implement the various aspects of data protection and information security.

Let’s start by recalling the meaning of some important terms:

Privacy is about individual’s right to a private life, and the right to control all information about themselves. Grounded in European Convention on Human Rights (1950), the Norwegian Constitution § 102 states that “Everyone has the right to the respect of their privacy and family life, their home and their communication.” followed by “The authorities of the state shall ensure the protection of personal integrity».

Norway’s law on privacy, the Personal Data Act (PDA1), was introduced as early as 1978, so we have tradition for this kind of legislation. That’s why the GDPR2, in principle, didn’t result in significant changes.

In order to protect privacy, Information Security (IS) is crucial. It is mainly about how to prevent personal data from going astray, but we had to go for a more stringent definition: To secure confidentiality, integrity, authenticity, availability (for the approved purpose only), reliability, resilience (the ability to recover), possession (ownership), and utility (readable for the approved purpose) of the data.

With this in mind, we developed our Information Security Policy (ISP) as a documentation of the GDPR compliancy practices, and GDPR requirements to employees and states the company’s commitment to compliance. Article 24 in the GDPR demands controllers (such as Runbox) to implement appropriate data protection policies, and our ISP is an important part of our response to that requirement.

The purpose of Runbox’ Information Security Policy is to provide rules and guidance for Runbox’ employees, Runbox’ contractual employees/consultants, and everyone else working for Runbox, voluntarily or according to contract/agreement, so that they in all respects act

  • to comply with the company’s information security policies,
  • to comply with the company’s Privacy Policy and Terms of Service regarding our obligations to our customers,
  • to ensure that the processing of Personal Data is in accordance with the PDA/GDPR and ensure that appropriate technical and organizational measures are adapted to the purpose, extent and context of the processing, and ensure that such measures are adapted to the risks for the rights and freedoms of natural persons3.

The ISP is a very comprehensive document, stating our commitment to the protection of our customer’s data, and defining technical and organizational measures to fulfill this obligation.

For instance, we will not store customer’s data on any “cloud” (we use our own servers), we shall never disclose account information or email data to authorities (unless presented with a court order from the Norwegian prosecuting authority), and we shall never scan customer’s data to display ads. More information about this can be found on our Privacy Protection page.

An important aspect of the ISP is to define the responsibilities of two roles/positions: The Managing Director is the personified Data Controller, responsible for GDPR compliancy on behalf of the company, and the appointed Data Protection Officer, who is a watchdog regarding the company’s status where GDPR is concerned.

The ISP imposes strict rules for employees, partners, consultants etc. on how to handle systems and data, anchored in a No Disclosure Agreement and Agreement on Protection of Personal Data. This includes rules for how to process and store data and how to protect digital devices.

Finally, let’s mention that the ISP provides rules for contractual agreements with organizations Runbox has partnered with, consultants etc. so that appropriate technical and organizational measures are implemented to ensure GDPR-compliant data processing and systems development.

All together, we have developed two documents that serve as guidance, and control our behavior regarding the GDPR. These are the RRISM (planning document, mentioned in an earlier blog), and the ISP. It is worth mentioning that these documents are continuously updated when new privacy and security issues arise.

1 The Personal Data Act (the PDA) means the regulations that are currently in force in Norway for the protection of individuals in connection with the processing of personal data, which includes the implementation of GDPR in Norway (2018-07-20).

2 The GDPR means Regulation EU 2016/679 of 27 April 2016 on the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data and repealing Directive 95/46 / EC General Data Protection, General Data Processing Regulation. Article refers to Article in the GDPR.

3 See GDPR Article 4(1).

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POP v IMAP – battle of the protocols

POP (Post Office Protocol) and IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol) both have their place, but for most customers Runbox recommends that IMAP is used.

POP and IMAP are both ways in which an email program (client) can access your messages on an email service (server). This client-server relationship needs the two systems to communicate with each other and depending on which of these you choose your options for managing your email will be different.

Synchronisation

Generally speaking IMAP can be regarded as synchronising what is on the server (which you can see in the Runbox webmail) and what is on the device or computer that is using IMAP. With the increase in the number of devices we each use if you want your email contents to be the same across all your devices, then IMAP is the best option.

Online v Offline

POP is quite different to IMAP and the basic idea is to allow you to download messages from an Inbox on a server and remove them from the server. The idea behind this was that it would be particularly useful if you have intermittent Internet access and want to manage your email on your device. POP clients also have the option to leave email on the server in case you want to keep it there as a backup or download it to another device later. Some clients also have an option to delete the email after a certain period of time.

However, caching (keeping a copy) of messages in the email program also allows IMAP to provide a way of working without an Internet connection. POP still has the advantage that generally speaking all your email is downloaded and you can be confident it is stored on your machine whereas with IMAP you may need to ensure specifically that the email you want to access offline is downloaded.

Sent messages

Another of the key differences between POP and IMAP is that with IMAP email that is sent from a device is usually copied to the Sent folder on the server. This means if you start using a different IMAP device or access your email via the webmail you can also see your Sent messages sent on all other devices. Sent messages are never copied to the Sent folder when using POP and are stored locally only on the device that sent the message.

Folders

IMAP allows you to structure your email in a variety of folders and these are reflected across your devices. POP only allows access to messages from a particular folder, usually the Inbox (though Runbox has a feature called “POP from folder” that allows you to access a particular folder in your account).

Storage

If you regularly access your email then POP could mean you only need a small amount of server storage and therefore cost you less in hosting charges. For example, if you always download you email and delete it from the server then you won’t need as much storage space compared to someone who leaves all their email on the server using IMAP and may also have a folder structure they need to maintain that wouldn’t be possible with POP.

Of course with IMAP you can also copy messages to a local folder in your email program and then delete them from the server, but this needs a bit more effort whereas with POP it is a feature of this way of accessing messages in the first place.

Backups

Using POP to download all your email and at the same time deleting it from the server does mean that you might want to consider making your own backups of your email. With IMAP your email is stored on the server and this acts as a kind of backup in itself. Runbox also makes backup snapshots of your account (unless you opt out of this), but if you download all your email using POP and leave little on the server, then there might not be anything for us to make a backup snapshot of.

Why we generally recommend IMAP

Generally speaking if a customer asks us whether IMAP or POP is best for them we will recommend IMAP. There are a number of reasons for this, and some are listed below:

  • The experience across devices and between devices and the webmail is consistent.
  • It’s easy to set up two or more devices and know that you will see all the email that is in your account.
  • If you need to remove the account from a device and set it up again you won’t automatically lose your messages (with POP you would need to make a local copy first).
  • It’s easy to change your mind about what email program you want to use because email is stored on the server.

When we would recommend POP

A customer might have a specific reason for not leaving email on the server. They may want to keep their storage plan small so that they don’t need to upgrade over a period of time. They may also want to ensure that data is not stored on our servers for too long, or in our backup system.

They may also need to filter email for different purposes using the filters built in to every Runbox account, and then just access a particular folder as if it was the Inbox using the POP from folder feature mentioned above.

Server details

The server details for POP and IMAP are very similar, except that you use port 995 for POP and 993 for IMAP. You will find the full details on our server details page.

If you need any further information about POP and IMAP just contact Runbox Support.

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Runbox 7 Calendar now in beta

We are extremely pleased to be able to announce that the Runbox 7 Calendar is now in beta test.

You may be aware that Runbox for a while has provided a calendar (CalDAV) service for calendar clients such as Outlook, Thunderbird Lightning, and macOS Calendar.

If you’ve previously used our CalDAV server you’ll be pleased to be able to finally use it through the web interface, not needing a separate program anymore.

Runbox 7 Calendar

Calendar features

The Runbox 7 Calendar currently offers month, week, and day views, you may add and edit events, and perform other basic actions.

It can also be synchronized with your other programs and devices by setting them up with our CalDAV service.

As this is still a Beta, not everything that your own calendar program can do will be available in the Runbox 7 Calendar quite yet. One notable missing feature is Tasks (TODOs) support – this will be coming later on as a separate feature.

We invite you to try it out by logging into Runbox 7 and clicking Calendar in the main menu.

And let us know what you think over in the Runbox 7 Forum!

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