Anne Toth, Slack’s VP of Policy & Compliance Strategy, addressed this new feature and the updates in a blog post titled “Slack’s Policy Update: What It Means to You.” She cites financial services and securities trading firms as examples of the types of company that might want to use Slack but can’t because they have strict requirements for keeping track of all employee communications. Which is why that’s all about to change with Slack Plus.
“Slack has built a feature called Compliance Exports as part of the Slack Plus plan–the level above the Standard Plan. It allows team owners of organizations using the Plus plan to export all their team communications subject to their team message retention and deletion policies,” Toth wrote.
Compliance Exports differ from a standard export in that they include both messages in public channels as well as private messages between users. Employers must go through a fairly involved process to receive an export of the entire archive. Stewart Butterfield, Slack’s founder and CEO, compared it to “having a waiting period before you buy a gun.” In other words, there’s no Uber-like “God view” that can be abused willy-nilly by a meddlesome middle manager.
Toth and Co. recognize that there could be major privacy implications with this new feature and anticipating a potential shitstorm from its fanatical users, they went out of their way to stress that this is an opt-in option just for Slack Plus members that will be available starting in January. Users will be notified as soon as this Compliance Exports feature is turned on, and messages predating the start date will not be included in the exports.
There have also been updates to the Terms of Service, including a section about legal disputes that might arise between Slack and users. By using Slack, you forego your right to a jury trial and instead are subject to binding arbitration. This is fairly standard legal language these days and to be expected of a newly valuable company seeking to insulate itself from any problems that might occur on its platform.
Slack’s mission is to increase communication and collaboration, to kill off inefficient email threads as the inelegant alternative to what it offers. Although Slack has bent over backwards to explain its additions and changes today, releasing this news during a holiday week, with the changes taking place on New Year’s Day, isn’t exactly befitting
its mission. But just as past policy changes to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have proven, these legal maneuvers are unlikely to deter users hooked on Slack.