Privacy Policy

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Our philosophy

We are fundamentally a place for people to build things. We collect certain personal information to make that possible, and not as an end in itself. That means we practice a policy of data minimization: we don't collect personal data that is not useful for the Asylum or our members, we don't store personal data longer than we need to, and we tell you what we're doing with the personal data you give us.

The purpose of this document is to tell you what personal data we do collect, and what we do with it.

Note: Certain technical aspects of how we handle personal information are currently in flux. Where we are in the process of transitioning to a more privacy-protective method, the intended goal is written {in curly brackets}. When we have implemented that method, the curly brackets will be removed.

Contact info for individuals


If you routinely use a name that's different from your so-called "legal name", that's fine with us. Some of our automation needs to know both, such as systems that process payments. We will be as careful as we can not to confuse the two. Some individuals in the organization may need both names at once, such as our accountant and our IT lead. They promise not to tell.

Email addresses

If you sign up for one of our mailing lists, we store your email address so we know where to send the mail. Even if you later unsubscribe, our logfiles will still reflect that we saw your email address at one time.

If you ask to join our "announce" list, we also give your email address to Constant Contact, for use with the version of the "announce" list that we distribute through them. They have their own privacy policy. In short, they promise not to give your email address to anyone else.

You can individually opt out from any Constant Contact mailing by following instructions at the bottom of one of their messages; this should (we think) prevent you from being accidentally added back to our CC list. (If this fails for any reason, please let us know!) If you opt out of CC's mailings, you'll still get mailing sent to our own "announce" list unless you opt out there, so whether you're on both lists, neither, or just one is up to you.

Email messages

We archive email messages that go to our mailing lists. These archives are only available to subscribers of those lists. If you unsubscribe, your messages will continue to be available, including to people who join later. In extreme cases, we can delete particular messages, but that's a manual and very labor-intensive process, so please don't ask unless it's truly important. (It also can't possibly delete any copies of your messages being held by people who were subscribers at the time you sent the message.)

Emergency contact info

Emergency contact info means (at least) a phone number for each member of someone who should be called in the event that the member has a medical emergency. Members are required to list a phone number; they may optionally provide the name & relationship of that person to the member.

We store such information in two ways:

  • Electronically, for use by desk staffers and administrative staff when they are on duty. {Accesses to this data are logged.}
  • {In hardcopy, in a labelled drawer. There is no access control on the hardcopy because it may be needed quickly during an emergency.}


We will not distribute the names of our members to outside parties, nor, in general, will we do so en masse to our members. There are some exceptions, but these generally occur because of some action the member takes:

  • If you post to Asylum members-only mailing lists, other members will know who you are.
  • If you've done some particularly noteworthy bit of volunteering, you may be publicly thanked in an update message to our members, unless you ask in advance not to be.
  • Some staff and volunteers need access to complete lists of members to do their jobs. Typically, this includes handling payments, subscriptions to mailing lists, elections, and so forth.

If you wish to tell anyone that you, yourself, are a member, that's up to you, of course. But we won't do it for you. (Renters' spaces were tagged with signs so they knew which space was theirs, and so others could find them. They are free to leave them up, remove them, or replace them as they see fit.)


We don't publicize the names of students. However, we do give student email addresses to instructors of classes they take, so that instructors can contact students with organizational details. (If a student pays with a PayPal address that is different from their main address, what we generally give the instructor is that PayPal address, since that's what we typically have most readily at hand. This may change in the future with different ways to sign up for classes, and students may request that we give instructors a better email for them than their PayPal address.)


If you'd like to teach at the Asylum, we typically ask for biographical information and other similar information, so we can publicize a nice blurb on websites to attract students to your class. We will often also hand out your email address to students if they need to contact you.


We have contact information for donors, so we can thank and acknowledge them. Anyone who donates over $100 can be listed on our website; we ask for permission first.


Individuals under 18 are allowed on our mailing lists (see here for details) and may also be entered into our various member databases. (However, we are currently not allowing individuals under 18 in our shops due to insurance issues, which we hope to resolve.)

However, due to issues of COPPA compliance, we will not knowingly enter any data about individuals under age 13 into any of our computational infrastructure, and we will not allow them on our mailing lists. (If such an individual signs themselves up to a mailing list but is otherwise not known to the Asylum, we may well have no way to know unless they tell us, but we will not knowingly allow this.)

RFID card-swipe data

If you have an RFID membership card, we record this information about it indefinitely (but will delete it for former members if you ask us to):

  • The correspondence between that particular card and your member account
  • The last date your card was used

In addition, we record this data about your card {for roughly one month}:

  • Each time it was used to enter the space, randomized by 5 minutes (so we don't know exactly, nor do we know the order you and someone else entered in if you enter around the same time).
  • Any time you use the card with a reader not at the front door; this includes front-desk checkin or (possibly in the future) access to certain heavy equipment.
    • {Barring some substantive use for non-entry card-swipe data, we will keep a similar month-long rolling window.}

{Members may proactively opt-in to having us store data about their card usage indefinitely. They might do this, for example, to allow them to audit their own use of the space.

Unless a member opts-in to have us keep their data indefintely, however, after one month, we remove their name from the entry record. We may keep the resulting record indefinitely, so we can determine peak hours of use and similar things, but we won't know whose card in particular belongs to each record.

If a member opts-in for indefinite storage, then opts-out later, we will immediately anonymize all data older than one month, as if the member had never opted-in.}

Any of this data, {including data that is expired after a month}, might appear longer than that in various backups we keep until those backups are themselves expired by new ones.


Live video

"Live video" means video that is not stored at all, or is not stored for more than a few moments.

We don't use live video. We don't have staff who can be dedicated to watching it, and even if we did, that staff would not be available 24x7. Since we can't promise that someone will be looking at live video in real time, having it at all may expose us and our staffers to liability if someone were to depend on it, and then claim we should have been looking at it for their personal safety. Also, the resolution and coverage of any camera is never going to be as good as having a safety buddy in the shop, and a safety buddy can hear things going wrong as well, which a camera cannot. You, and not some distant staffer who may or may not even be watching, are responsible for following shop rules on safe use of equipment, use of personal protective devices, and not using potentially dangerous machines alone; having a buddy there in the shop will protect you far better than video ever will.

Stored video

"Stored video" means video that is stored for some length of time, such as by a surveillance camera. It also includes snapshots (photographs) taken by those cameras.

We collect video in all of our shops and in some craft areas, in order to identify users who cause damage to machinery or to understand how some action led to an unsafe result. This video is kept for two weeks. It is only viewable by a very small number of staff. Each authorized user has a unique login. Accesses to this video are permanently logged and are subject to audit.


We occasionally take photographs for publicity purposes. We will always try to ask any members who might be in range of the camera for their permission, and will not distribute any photograph containing images of a member who does not wish to be photographed. (If a member is sufficiently far in the background as to be unrecognizable, it may not be feasible to ask, but a concerned member may still ask for the photo not to be used or for their image to be obscured in some way.)

Anything left in the Asylum might be captured by a photograph---either one of ours, for publicity, or by any member or visitor, for their own uses---at any time. Even if someone is taking a shot of something else, your item might appear in the background by accident. If you have something that must not be photographed (a secret skunkworks project or the equivalent), we recommend that you cover it instead.

Blog posts and other written media

We will not mention you by name in print or in other publicity unless we get your permission to do so. Similarly, we will not knowingly photograph or describe your projects unless you give us permission. (We ask that members extend this courtesy to each other as well--- please ask before mentioning other members' projects to third parties or publicizing them on the net. This is part of the member-to-member privacy policy.)

Data transiting our internal networks

We maintain both a wired and a wireless network infrastructure.

Wired connections

The wired infrastructure communicates with

  • Access and surveillance systems
  • Computers thay handle payments
  • Certain pieces of fixed heavy machinery
  • Certain classroom computers
  • ...and similar permanently- or semi-permanently-installed Asylum property

Networks that handle personal information (such as the first two categories above) are physically separate networks from the rest, on physically separate machines from machines used to handle less-sensitive data. Access to those networks is restricted to Asylum personnel who need such access to do their jobs.

Most machines that handle such data use encrypted filesystems. If such a machine is ever stolen, the thief will possess the physical machine, and an unreadable pile of random bits. If we ever discard such machine(s), we will either securely overwrite all stored data before the machine is discarded (generally by destroying the associated crypto keys), or we will physically destroy the storage medium. {Certain machines do not yet run entirely-encrypted filesystems, but are slated to either do so or to be superceded entirely.} {Certain personal data is held on our Internet-facing webserver, which is physically secure but does not use an encrypted filesystem. We intend to move such data to a different machine as soon as feasible.}

Note that certain special-purpose commercial devices, such as the iPad we use to take walk-in payments, talk to our regular network, but they do so over encrypted channels, since they are designed to be used over the Internet as well. Similarly, when we interact with payment systems on the Internet (such as Intuit, PayPal, etc), we use encrypted connections to the extent that those services support it. [Not all such services use crypto very well--for example, many send acknowledgments in the clear via email, and we can't do anything about that because we don't run those services.]

Classroom computers may be physically on the wired network or on the wireless network. They are treated as if they were on the wireless network for purposes of data privacy. See below.

Wireless connections

Member and visitor access to Asylum resources, and to the outside world, is provided by our wireless network. In general, we do not monitor or store the actual contents of communications. We will collect automatic data to diagnose problems with the wireless network, but that data is aggregated and not inspected unless we need to diagnose problems.

However, we reserve the right to inspect the actual data transiting our networks in the event of problems. For example, if one particular machine is swamping the net, we reserve the right to monitor traffic to figure out which machine is misbehaving.

For debugging purposes, we monitor the assignment of DHCP leases to machine MAC addresses. This information is typically kept for a short amount of time (on the order of 1-2 weeks). However, if we are put in the position of having to answer requests from law enforcement (for example, because members are downloading copyrighted content or otherwise drawing attention to themselves), we may change this policy, and will announce the change. If we have to change this policy, we may require individual authentication by every computer connecting to our network, and we may keep such records for extended periods of time (possibly months). Please do not act in a way that might force us to begin this policy. See also Acceptable use of our public network.

All wireless communications are encrypted. Unless we are required to authenticate individual users (see above), all such crypto uses a common shared key (WPA2 Personal, AES mode). This does not necessarily protect your data against someone with malicious intent who knows our wireless key. Since we cannot police what people do with their computers, if you value your privacy, please ensure that your own communications are encrypted end-to-end. (This also applies to any data you send to the Internet, of course, which is out of our control.)

Asylum employees

If you an employee of the Asylum, your use of certain high-security Asylum-owned machines may be subject to monitoring and periodic audits. This particularly applies to any Asylum machines that handle (a) personal information or (b) financial data. Monitoring and audits are used to ensure that these machines are used only for Asylum-related business, and are intended to ensure that these machines are not used to visit non-business-related sites on the net, and to ensure that those who are authorized to handle such information are doing so in safe ways. We do this as a security precaution, to decrease the chances that such machines may acquire malware that could leak personal or financial data to outside parties, and to detect misuse of the machines. This monitoring and auditing may include, but is not limited to, examination of data stored anywhere on the machine, and any of its network traffic. If you use such machines, you consent to such monitoring. If you do not wish to be monitored, the solution is simple---do your browsing on one of our non-high-security machines, or on your own machine, but not on a high-security machine.

Other stored data

This section is a grab-bag of other ways we store data, and what we do with it.

Things that don't wind up on computers

Rental forms filled out by members are stored on paper. They are not put on a computer. The forms are in a locked area.

In order to pay instructors, we require each instructor's social security number and date of birth. While we store records on computers of what courses each instructor has taught and what money they've been paid, we do not store instructor SSNs or dates of birth on a computer---they're stored on paper, in a locked area.

Things that do wind up on computers

Some data is handled by computers inside the physical Asylum building at Tyler, and some is handled by our Internet-facing public server, which is in a secure facility far away.

Member data created inside Tyler

If you create a document on a shared computer, we cannot guarantee whether (or if) the data will ever be deleted. If you don't want other students or other people in general to see the data, please delete it. Places with such shared computers include, but are not necessarily limited to:

  • Classroom computers (and in-class work assignments)
  • CNC machinery (and fabrication documents)
  • Backups of such machines

Note that it is a violation of our member-to-member privacy policy for members to attempt to recover the contents of others' deleted files without their permission.

Security data created inside Tyler

No surveillance of any kind (video, snapshots, or RFID card data) transits the same physical network (wired or wireless) as any of our other data while it is being collected. It is also not stored on the same physical computer as any computer that normal members have access to. This means that even if a malicious member attempts to compromise the data network, or one of our general-use computers, it is unlikely that surveillance data can be recorded or retrieved. {Front-desk card-swipe data currently transits the insecure network; it will be moved to the secure net as soon as possible. Front-door card-swipe data is on the secure net already.}

If the data must be manipulated after it is collected, it is possible that some of it might traverse our data network, either inside the Asylum or to processing offsite. The data will always be encrypted both in transit and at rest if so.

Server logs for our public-facing server

We keep extensive logs on, our public-facing server. In particular, we keep webserver logs indefinitely for debugging and for use in our security system. These logs, in general, identify IP addresses, but typically not which member is accessing the server. Those who have administrative access to our request-tracking system may have their username recorded when they log in, which can associate their username with the IP address they are using at that time.

Certain Asylum employees have access to email accounts on that server. For debugging purposes, we may keep login/logout information for that service, and we may keep it indefinitely.

Email transiting our server generates logs typical of such services, including timestamps, IP addresses, and sender and recipient addresses. We keep this logging data indefinitely. If the message simply transits the machine but is not stored there (not to an employee account, and not to a mailing list we host), we do not log anything about the message's actual contents.

Changes to this policy

We will announce substantive upcoming changes to this policy as far in advance of their implementation as is feasible. If you wish to ask a simple question about the policy, please send mail to

Please note that this is not a discussion list: if you have an issue you'd like to discuss related to our privacy policy, please start there, and if necessary, we can then schedule a face-to-face meeting with other members to figure out what to do. (We've found in the past that having such discussions over email is not an effective use of everyone's time compared to face-to-face discussions.)

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