Adobe was recently planning to cut off all users in Venezuela due to US sanctions. Yesterday, they reached a resolution with the US government to restore access. But this incident got me thinking about the implications of subscription software on data ownership.
I don’t use many web services already, because I don’t want any company to be able to revoke access to my own data. When I do use a web service, I prefer to use it with a native client that automatically keeps an offline backup of my data, and, if that’s not possible, then I manually export a backup every month (I do this with Pinboard for example).
Subscriptions have some similar issues to web services. I have a thought experiment I like to do: If I canceled all of my subscriptions, and then started up my computer offline five years from now, would I be able to access all of my data?1 Subscription services like Adobe Creative Cloud fail this test because you’d lose access to those applications after the subscription lapses. The maximum offline grace period Adobe offers is 99 days for annual customers:
In offline mode, annual Creative Cloud members get 99 days of grace period; month-to-month members get 30 days of grace period.
This is still much safer than using a web service. With a web service, you lose access the application and you lost access to your data. With subscriptions for native apps (that work with files), you’ve only lost the access to the application. You still have your data, and the data is the most important thing. Even if Adobe decided they never want you as a customer again, you could still presumably find someone else with an Adobe license and access your data that way (or, more likely, just use a third-party tool that supports the same file format). But I still don’t feel good about subscriptions failing that test, and I’m not sure what to do about it with so much software going the subscription route.
This scenario isn’t as far fetched as it sounds. I have bootable backups that are at least that old, and every once in awhile I have to boot one up to grab an old file. ↩︎