Gail, a reader, has asked us to investigate Memories.com.au after seeing its TV ads. Her concern is on many levels, not the least of which is the long term safety and storage of her memories and any privacy implications.
Well, it looks kosher and its Aussie. Memories.com.au (website here) appears to be an Australian company, obviously financially well-backed and offers a “Free” and Plus and Premium plans.
The launch partners include the Age, Sydney Morning Herald, Brisbane Times, Canberra Times, Newcastle Herald, WA Today and 100s of other publications. It cleverly has obtained a 131 MEMORIES phone number – that is not cheap.
OK, it is a freemium model that draws you in, and you quickly discover that three timelines and 1GB of storage are not enough. What do you do then? Well, you commit to $2.99 to $6.99 a month for a few more resources.
So, Gail, let’s assume you live another 50+ years. You are committing to somewhere between $2,000 and $5,000 of future expenditure depending on the plan. And the assumption monthly costs don’t go up. And then your heirs are committed to the plan as well. We will discuss how you get your data out of Memories.com.au later.
What does Memories.com.au do?
It allows you to create a photo or video timeline and store it online. Think of a timeline as a tribute or an obituary.
Storage is currently on an encrypted Amazon Web Services (AWS) server. You assume Australian storage, but Memories.com.au also has a Philippines office so it could be there. There is no guarantee that AWS will continue as the provider nor the location of the storage.
The only mention is WebPurify that appears to be a US-based company with various APIs (application program interfaces) and costs to use Automated Intelligent Moderation Service (AIM) to check for profanity, photo or video.
In photos or videos, it has filters that look for
nudity or partial nudity
hate or hate crimes
offensive gestures or language (English Only)
drugs, drug paraphernalia, or drug use
blank or broken
A live team moderates any offending images found by the AIM.
But WebPurity can also do word, phrase, email, phone number, URL and more ‘filtering’ that can build a personal profile.
There is nothing in Memories.com.au terms that link the service to WebPurity for eternity, nor specify the extent of WebPurify’s filtering or data gathering. Let alone limit what it can do with extracting new forms, or more data from images in the future.
So, if you intend to use Memories.com.au for adult or questionable material – don’t.
Memories.com.au state on their website, “Memories guarantee personal information will remain secure, with customer data never sold to advertisers or third parties.” That is a great start.
Its policy states that it is compliant with the Australian Privacy Principles and the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation. Another good start.
When you sign up it and use the service it collects
contact details (including email address, telephone number(s) and other contact details)
date of birth
usernames and passwords
bank account details
date of death
sensitive information that you choose to submit to us
It defines sensitive information as information or an opinion about such things as an individual’s racial or ethnic origin, political opinions, membership of a political association, religious or philosophical beliefs, membership of a trade union or other professional body, criminal record or health information.
So if you are a Hells Angle Bikie and your images contain the secret clubhouse location, then this service is not for you.
The bottom line is that to build a timeline or tribute; you are committing very personal details to the internet. That is fine in theory as only you and nominated people can see the timeline or tribute. But what happens if the service if it is hacked?
Privacy grey areas
Collecting information from third parties
Memories may also collect information about you from other people (e.g. a third-party administrator or other Users) or independent sources. This may occur when, for example, other Users upload content that includes information about you, or where a Page Administrator nominated you as a Page Administrator. If you also permit it to access information in other services, such as Facebook or Google Drive, Apple or Dropbox, it may be able to obtain information from those accounts depending on your privacy settings.
Use of private information
Apart from that which is necessary to provide the service it does not appear to sell aggregated data to advertisers. Phew!
Memories.com.au pays link affiliates 10%, so you are likely to see it promoted on price comparison websites, social media, funeral homes, charities, and more.
GadgetGuy’s take – Memories.com.au seems legit
Caveat emptor – nothing on the web is ever truly private.
First, while this does similar things, it is not related to Memories.com and the plethora of Chinese album apps that are purely data harvesting companies disguised as a useful app that sells your data.
Nor, is it Google Photos that can do similar things and is backed by a trillion-dollar company.
We have only reviewed publicly available information and various policies from the website. Now in most countries, that means nothing as you can say anything and get away with it. But this is an Aussie company and subject to our laws and the wrath of ACCC’s Rod Sims if necessary.
We have not conducted a detailed analysis of the corporate structure, shareholders or cross-shareholdings.
And we have supplied a copy of this article to Memories.com.au and invited comment. Tom Ainsworth. CEO was back in a flash and only too wiling to help – another great start.
Gail, the healthy paranoia that I have about data harvesting apps still exists. This is the ultimate oversharing.
We asked Tom, CEO memories.com.au to respond to a series of questins – more about the future than the here and now.
Q. How long is free? A. Memories.com.au will offer a free basic service for as long as the company operates – we hope forever!
Q. Will it remain at current price levels for current users forever? A. We are committed to a fair price and value exchange but it is only normal that prices may rise over time.
Q. If the company were to fail, then what happens to the data? A. If this were to happen we would contact all users to facilitate the download of their data. Memories timelines are stored as webpages in a static HTML format so can be re-hosted on your own domain
Q. What assurances are there that future owners must abide by present policies? A. While we value user privacy and would seek to make our privacy polices a term of sale we cannot guarantee that a future owner will not change them. If a user is not comfortable with any changes to policies they are able to opt-out and download their content.
Q. Can it guarantee never to use face and object mapping, location and metadata? A. If Memories Group ever decides to offer these features it will be on an opt-in basis.
Q. How do you download timelines/content to your device should you wish to opt-out? A. Memories Group will be releasing a tool for users to download all their content.