“Privacy” is becoming a USP? How Bizarre!

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Thanks to Facebook, Google and a gazillion other companies who feed on user information for advertising dollars, “Privacy” has now become a unique selling point.

Most of these companies track user behavior and use other user related information to show relevant advertisements and improve product experience for the user. With so many privacy policies floating around it’s hard to tell who is tracking what.

I think technology and competition is the worst thing ever happened to user privacy and given the recent mishandling of user information, I am just as concerned as you are! So, few weeks ago, just when Kevin Rose announced that Oink will shut down, I left him a message on G+ urging him to consider working on a product that puts privacy ahead of everything else!

Here is a part of what I wrote to Kevin..

“Given the current state of e-mail service providers, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, etc.. people like me have growing privacy concerns and I am pretty sure there are millions out there.

How about creating a product which only and only does email and if I am not happy with your service then I’ll take my email address (xxxxx@gmail.com) somewhere else, just like I can take my mobile number to any service provider. No ads, no partners, no sharing of personal information for targeted ads, no scanning through the emails, etc… I am ready to pay up to $10 per month for a service like this. I am sure you will find a million others who will pay too.

All the current email providers do what they like because of the fact that our email addresses are locked with them. If we decide to move, we’ll not only lose the email address which is no less than an online identity now, but also years of emails.
So create a service which will encourage competition and let customers chose whats right for them.

I know the idea of being able to take your email address to other service providers sound crazy, but how else will you change the world? I don’t have the technical expertise or a team that can drill into the idea to see how feasible it is, but you can, you have the technical expertise, the team, network, contacts and everything else to make it happen.

I am not in it for money or some sort of success, I’ve just have had enough of these tech giants taking our privacy and opinion for granted. I am in it for choice!”

I never heard from Kevin, but it made all the sense when Kevin announced that the Oink team is joining Google, so there was no way he was going to comment or even acknowledge my message.

But something happened this week which tells me I am not the only one concerned about my privacy, there are other who are not only thinking of putting privacy first but also finding way to do it.

Nicholas Merrill, of The Calyx Institute is raising funds to launch an ISP that encrypts user information and protects it from government and other agencies. Nicholas plans to launch encrypted cloud storage and file transfer service followed by e-mail using public key cryptography which makes it impossible for even the email provider to read into your emails. Only the owner of the account can decrypt the encryption.

The Calyx Institute project is currently listed on Indiegogo to raise initial funding of $1 million to kick start this project. I encourage our readers to contribute to the fund and make this project a reality. Given the current state of privacy and how companies handle our information, projects like these are the only ray of hope for people who want to keep their online life just as private as their life offline.

Image credit: http://protect.iu.edu/privacy/cartoons

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