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Transparency and clarity are two of the most important characteristics of modern technical communication. Most such communication is directed at end users and consumers who are more than ever demanding transparency and clarity in the information products that they consume. Disclosures of every kind are now a regular part of almost all forms of technical communication, including this very blog you’re reading.
One particular case of transparency and clarity is when you’re running a business or a web site and your customer data is hacked and compromised. That’s what happened recently to Aweber, a premiere autoresponder host that I’ve also been using now for years. I’m their affiliate as well.
How Aweber responded to such data compromise should be studied by all who may be facing a similar situation in the future.
Here is what Aweber did: they published a perfect “we’re sorry” statement that went well beyond a simple apology.
First Aweber explained what had exactly happened and what kind of data was actually compromised.
Then Aweber explained what data had NOT been compromised.
Third, they explained what steps were taken to prevent the re-occurence of the same situation.
This was followed by a sincere “we’re sorry” statement and their thanks for the continuing support of their customers.
That is what a good “transparency statement” should look like.
Could it have been even better? Perhaps yes, like by disclosing the identity of perpetrators. But then that’s a step that might have legal ramifications. And I’m not even sure that they know exactly who the overseas hackers were.
Here is the Aweber blog entry explaining the incident and the measures taken since then. Study it as a model in case one day you need to write a similar statement as well.