On April 1, 2018, we took a big step toward improving Internet privacy and security with the launch of the 1.1.1.1 public DNS resolver — the Internet's fastest, privacy-first public DNS resolver. And we really meant privacy first. We were not satisfied with the status quo and believed that secure DNS resolution with transparent privacy practices should be the new normal. So we committed to our public resolver users that we would not retain any personal data about requests made using our 1.1.1.1 resolver. We also built in technical measures to facilitate DNS over HTTPS to help keep your DNS queries secure. We’ve never wanted to know what individuals do on the Internet, and we took technical steps to ensure we can’t know.

We knew there would be skeptics. Many consumers believe that if they aren’t paying for a product, then they are the product. We don’t believe that has to be the case. So we committed to retaining a Big 4 accounting firm to perform an examination of our 1.1.1.1 resolver privacy commitments.

Today we’re excited to announce that the 1.1.1.1 resolver examination has been completed and a copy of the independent accountants’ report can be obtained from our compliance page.

The examination process

We gained a number of observations and lessons from the privacy examination of the 1.1.1.1 resolver. First, we learned that it takes much longer to agree on terms and complete an examination when you ask an accounting firm to do what we believe is the first of its kind examination of custom privacy commitments for a recursive resolver.

We also observed that privacy by design works. Not that we were surprised -- we use privacy by design principles in all our products and services. Because we baked anonymization best practices into the 1.1.1.1 resolver when we built it, we were able to demonstrate that we didn’t have any personal data to sell. More specifically, in accordance with RFC 6235, we decided to truncate the client/source IP at our edge data centers so that we never store in non-volatile storage the full IP address of the 1.1.1.1 resolver user.

We knew that a truncated IP address would be enough to help us understand general Internet trends and where traffic is coming from. In addition, we also further improved our privacy-first approach by replacing the truncated IP address with the network number (the ASN) for our internal logs. On top of that, we committed to only retaining those anonymized logs for a limited period of time. It’s the privacy version of belt plus suspenders plus another belt.

Finally, we learned that aligning our examination of the 1.1.1.1 resolver with our SOC 2 report most efficiently demonstrated that we had the appropriate change control procedures and audit logs in place to confirm that our IP truncation logic and limited data retention periods were in effect during the examination period. The 1.1.1.1 resolver examination period of February 1, 2019, through October 31, 2019, was the earliest we could go back to while relying on our SOC 2 report.

Details on the examination

When we launched the 1.1.1.1 resolver, we committed that we would not track what individual users of our 1.1.1.1 resolver are searching for online. The examination validated that our system is configured to achieve what we think is the most important part of this commitment -- we never write the querying IP addresses together with the DNS query to disk and therefore have no idea who is making a specific request using the 1.1.1.1 resolver. This means we don’t track which sites any individual visits, and we won't sell your personal data, ever.

We want to be fully transparent that during the examination we uncovered that our routers randomly capture up to 0.05% of all requests that pass through them, including the querying IP address of resolver users. We do this separately from the 1.1.1.1 service for all traffic passing into our network and we retain such data for a limited period of time for use in connection with network troubleshooting and mitigating denial of service attacks.

To explain -- if a specific IP address is flowing through one of our data centers a large number of times, then it is often associated with malicious requests or a botnet. We need to keep that information to mitigate attacks against our network and to prevent our network from being used as an attack vector itself. This limited subsample of data is not linked up with DNS queries handled by the 1.1.1.1 service and does not have any impact on user privacy.

We also want to acknowledge that when we made our privacy promises about how we would handle non-personally identifiable log data for 1.1.1.1 resolver requests, we made what we now see were some confusing statements about how we would handle those anonymous logs.

For example, we learned that our blog post commitment about retention of anonymous log data was not written clearly enough and our previous statements were not as clear because we referred to temporary logs, transactional logs, and permanent logs in ways that could have been better defined. For example, our 1.1.1.1 resolver privacy FAQs stated that we would not retain transactional logs for more than 24 hours but that some anonymous logs would be retained indefinitely. However, our blog post announcing the public resolver didn’t capture that distinction. You can see a clearer statement about our handling of anonymous logs on our privacy commitments page mentioned below.

With this in mind, we updated and clarified our privacy commitments for the 1.1.1.1 resolver as outlined below. The most critical part of these commitments remains unchanged: We don’t want to know what you do on the Internet — it’s none of our business — and we’ve taken the technical steps to ensure we can’t.

Our 1.1.1.1 public DNS resolver commitments

We have refined our commitments to 1.1.1.1 resolver privacy as part of our examination effort. The nature and intent of our commitments remain consistent with our original commitments. These updated commitments are what was included in the examination:

  1. Cloudflare will not sell or share public resolver users’ personal data with third parties or use personal data from the public resolver to target any user with advertisements.
  2. Cloudflare will only retain or use what is being asked, not information that will identify who is asking it. Except for randomly sampled network packets captured from at most 0.05% of all traffic sent to Cloudflare’s network infrastructure, Cloudflare will not retain the source IP from DNS queries to the public resolver in non-volatile storage (more on that below). The randomly sampled packets are solely used for network troubleshooting and DoS mitigation purposes.
  3. A public resolver user’s IP address (referred to as the client or source IP address) will not be stored in non-volatile storage. Cloudflare will anonymize source IP addresses via IP truncation methods (last octet for IPv4 and last 80 bits for IPv6). Cloudflare will delete the truncated IP address within 25 hours.
  4. Cloudflare will retain only the limited transaction and debug log data (“Public Resolver Logs”) for the legitimate operation of our Public Resolver and research purposes, and Cloudflare will delete the Public Resolver Logs within 25 hours.
  5. Cloudflare will not share the Public Resolver Logs with any third parties except for APNIC pursuant to a Research Cooperative Agreement. APNIC will only have limited access to query the anonymized data in the Public Resolver Logs and conduct research related to the operation of the DNS system.

Proving privacy commitments

We created the 1.1.1.1 resolver because we recognized significant privacy problems: ISPs, WiFi networks you connect to, your mobile network provider, and anyone else listening in on the Internet can see every site you visit and every app you use — even if the content is encrypted. Some DNS providers even sell data about your Internet activity or use it to target you with ads. DNS can also be used as a tool of censorship against many of the groups we protect through our Project Galileo.

If you use DNS-over-HTTPS or DNS-over-TLS to our 1.1.1.1 resolver, your DNS lookup request will be sent over a secure channel. This means that if you use the 1.1.1.1 resolver then in addition to our privacy guarantees an eavesdropper can’t see your DNS requests. We promise we won’t be looking at what you’re doing.

We strongly believe that consumers should expect their service providers to be able to show proof that they are actually abiding by their privacy commitments. If we were able to have our 1.1.1.1 resolver privacy commitments examined by an independent accounting firm, we think other organizations can do the same. We encourage other providers to follow suit and help improve privacy and transparency for Internet users globally. And for our part, we will continue to engage well-respected auditing firms to audit our 1.1.1.1 resolver privacy commitments. We also appreciate the work that Mozilla has undertaken to encourage entities that operate recursive resolvers to adopt data handling practices that protect the privacy of user data.

Details of the 1.1.1.1 resolver privacy examination and our accountant’s opinion can be found on Cloudflare’s Compliance page.

Visit https://developers.cloudflare.com/1.1.1.1/ from any device to get started with the Internet's fastest, privacy-first DNS service.

PS Cloudflare has traditionally used tomorrow, April 1, to release new products. Two years ago we launched the 1.1.1.1 free, fast, privacy-focused public DNS resolver. One year ago we launched WARP our way of securing and accelerating mobile Internet access.

And tomorrow?

Then three key changes
One before the weft, also
Safety to the roost