How we handle abusive usage
Last updated: January 19, 2021
We build our products* to give teams a better way to work. We are proud of that purpose and trust that our customers use our products for appropriate endeavors.
Sometimes, though, we discover potential abusive usage as detailed in our Use Restrictions policy. When that happens, we investigate using the following guiding principles and process.
Who’s “we”, you ask? It’s us: folks from the Basecamp team. Our internal abuse oversight committee includes our executives, David and Jason, and representatives from multiple departments across the company. On rare occasions for particularly sensitive situations or if legally required, we may also seek counsel from external experts.
We have an obligation to protect the privacy and safety of both our customers and the people reporting issues to us. We do our best to balance those responsibilities throughout the process.
Focus on evidence
We base our decisions on the evidence available to us: what we see and hear account users say and do. We document what we observe and ask whether that observable evidence points to a restricted use.
Every case goes through the same general process:
- Decision, sometimes with right to an appeal
How do we discover potential abuse?
From our experience, we learn about potential abuse because:
- Someone alerts us. We give abuse reports our full care and attention. Our Support team also responds to every question or comment that comes in. If we notice anything in those emails that points to a violation, we will look into it.
- We notice an anomaly in our business operations monitoring. We monitor a range of things about our products, like signup volume and error rates of web requests. If we see something weird with those numbers, we get to the bottom of it.
- We stumble upon public web content that links an individual or organization to a Basecamp product. We aren’t scouring the Internet looking for those links, but if we do come across any, we check them out.
This list is not exhaustive; there are always edge cases. We will update the list if we find regular new avenues.
How do we investigate?
We focus on the evidence:
- Language and imagery used by users on the account
- Evidence of account users’ power and/or ability to act on spoken claims
- Publicly available information about account users
We strive to balance privacy and safety for all those involved:
- We make every effort to complete our investigations without accessing a customer account. For instance, if there are screenshots or public documents available, we review those. We also consider whether it is appropriate to involve the account owner in a given investigation and seek additional evidence from them.
- As we review the evidence, we look for indications of existing negative impact. We also assess the severity of any potential negative impact, regardless of intent. When relevant, we look for and follow available guidelines from expert institutions.
- If we cannot come to a fair assessment from the information available, we may decide to access a customer account without notice. We do not make this decision lightly. Customer privacy is a big deal to us and we only pursue this course of action if the evidence we have already is very concerning, but not definitive.
While some violations are flatly obvious, others are subjective, nuanced, and difficult to adjudicate. We give each case adequate time and attention, commensurate with the violation, criticality, and severity of the charge.
What happens if someone really broke the rules?
We will terminate an account without advance notice if there is evidence it is being used for a restricted purpose that has, is, or will cause severe harm. If applicable, we will also report the incident to the appropriate authorities.
For other cases, we’ll take a case-by-case approach to clear things up.
Further, as a small, privately owned independent business that puts our values and conscience ahead of growth at all costs, we reserve the right to deny service to anyone we ultimately feel uncomfortable doing business with.
Can you appeal a decision?
If we terminate an account without notice, the decision is final.
For other cases, we will consider good faith appeals sent to firstname.lastname@example.org by the account owner within 14 calendar days.
*This process applies to any product created and owned by Basecamp, LLC. That includes Basecamp (any version), HEY, Highrise, Campfire, Backpack, Writeboard, and Ta-da List.