Reddit Updates Privacy Policy, CEO Steve Huffman Details Dedication To Protecting User Anonymity

It’s been a busy last few months since Steve Huffman returned to Reddit in July to become its CEO. The company had an eventful summer (to put it lightly), but now as much of the controversy subsides, Huffman and the rest of his team are looking to reduce overall stress and “bring a sense of stability to the company.”

Today, the company unveiled some new changes to their privacy policy. Functionally there are only a few updates, but the whole thing is perhaps representative of Huffman’s vision for the future of Reddit i.e. “cleaner, simpler and less vague.”

“We’re all trying to lead a low-stress existence over here so a big part of that is eliminating ambiguity in areas of conflict,” Huffman told TechCrunch.

Changes in the new privacy policy include Reddit’s embracing of support for Do Not Track, a browser option that will disable third-party analytics on Reddit. This policy also details some changes to the length of time that user IP addresses are stored on Reddit’s servers, increasing the time stored from 90 to 100 days so that the company can “measure usage across the quarter,” according to a post on the site. These changes will take effect on January 1.

These changes to the privacy policy also really highlight how unique Reddit is among popular Internet companies in how little information they actually gather from users.

For example, Reddit is still one of the few online accounts you can sign up for without connecting an email address.

Huffman says that Reddit doesn’t collect that much user data largely because they “don’t want the liability of having it, whether it’s something that advertisers would get or something law enforcement would ask for, or the government would ask for, or information we could lose if there was a breach.”

“A lot of that sentiment that privacy is of the utmost importance came from me,” said Huffman. “Many Reddit employees and the community are aligned on this issue, we all take it very seriously and that’s visible in the product itself.”

Huffman didn’t seem to believe that these changes would prompt much controversy, but he also knows better than most that the community can be unpredictable at times.

“I hope what users take away is that we are actually giving them an olive branch here, especially with the Do Not Track stuff.” said Huffman. “In reality I’m sure they’ll freak out because all change is horrible and must be feared, but seriously I don’t foresee a ton of drama with these changes.”

He referenced the controversy that had surrounded “shadowbanning,” a feature that they got rid of earlier this month, as an example of how difficult the Reddit community can be to gauge at times. “We lost a feature that made it easier to ban users and it was widely celebrated, so we must have done something right,” he told me.

The key, Huffman said, is in continuing to improve communication with the Reddit community and moderators.

A major topic of conversation on the site always seems to be how the Reddit team is handling expression and whether or not it really is “a bastion of free speech.”

Huffman said that the issue was something he and his team were still “navigating.”

“It is a very, very complex issue. Freedom of expression is something that is important to us here,” Huffman said. “We need to weigh that against what is good for Reddit and is good for the world.”

The position at the helm of one of the Internet’s most active, most controversial and most interesting communities can be a wild responsibility, but Huffman believes that Reddit is in a position equaled by few others.

“Reddit is a massive opportunity. Every startup in the Bay Area says they can change the world, but we actually do.”