With all of the latest talk around the NSA spying and privacy, it will be interesting to see if this idea has legs and we will see a raft of new startups leveraging the privacy theme – we are already seeing seeing things like Snapchat which supposedly kill images seconds after viewing (although there is nothing to stop the image from being captured en route, and how do you know there isn’t a copy sitting on Snapchat’s server?) and others which supposedly keep your information private and/or encrypted.
Of course, none of these address the current issue: what the NSA was looking at without warrant was the “mail cover” aka the metadata around the message, not the message itself, which of course can damn someone just as much as the content (I can’t remember how many times they pegged a perps accomplices on Hawaii-5-0 but looking at their phone records). Of course the NSA was looking at the envelope info without warrant. Either way, there is really no way for the layman to keep all of their information private, either the content or the envelope information, if they communicate in an unencrypted manner.
While most email services like Gmail and Yahoo! Mail use SSL (https) when you communicate with them, thus keeping random snoops from reading your mail, your mail is still stored on their servers. No privacy there. The only way to keep your data truly safe is to keep it local (like on a terabyte drive) and never communicate with anyone over the internet. All communications, even encrypted ones, produce metadata, which apparently, is available without warrant.
Maybe what we are seeing is the beginnings of a “cloud backlash” where users start to think about how dangerous it is to have their private data in the cloud, literally owned by these corporates who only pledge not to be be evil (although isn’t a part of being evil telling people that you aren’t)
I smell an opportunity, assuming that the situation drags on – more and more people will look at privacy and encryption as a key feature in upcoming apps. For example, how about a P2P email app, which stores locally and only forwards an encrypted copy directly when the recipient is online, never moving the content or the envelope information into the cloud. An app like that could allow users to communicate directly without a fear that either the envelope or the contents will be snooped into. If this exists today, I say invest, invest, invest… If not, I say time to start one.
So, considering that there’s now a Bitcoin fund, which just spring up out of the blue based on Bitcoin’s exploding valuation, I’m thinking we will now see a few new funds focused on privacy and security, which means new money for a new round of apps with this kind of feature set front and center, or these features added to what’s already out there.
Sounds like a great idea for a startup, no?