We started Seeld because some years ago we established we had a problem. In fact, the Internet had a problem. Edward Snowden had exposed how governments, service companies and ill-advised persons could read our so-called “private” messages and emails. And we found that quite frustrating! So we pondered: “How might we make sure our online privacy is respected?”
It sounds easy, but the problem is more complex than it seems…
The limits of Law
In a nation of laws, jurists would raise the matter and take action as necessary. For instance legislators would eventually come up with new laws, should the existing ones fall short of doing the job. Albeit that would assume they understand how new technologies actually works!
Of course, organisations such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation work hard on bridging the gap between law and technology. And European initiatives such as GDPR lay the legal ground for a lawful processing of data. So… problem solved?
Not quite. Though all this work is essential to make companies legally responsible for taking your privacy seriously, they seldom decrease the amount of data illegally shared, leaked or requisitioned for “noble purposes”. And once your data leaks, you may always try and erase it from the Internet!
The “we would never…” mantra
Consequently you decide carefully chose the services that pledge to defend the privacy of your emails and messages. They are skilled persons who know what they do. They would never betray you. So… problem solved?
Not quite. Indeed many twists of fate might result in a company willingly or unwillingly losing your data. Remember: a company that offers a free service still must pay for its operating costs. So if you don’t pay a subscription for the service they offer, then they need to find their money somewhere else!
Usually, they resolve to leverage the gathered to obtain an insight on their users’ tastes and preferences. They can then monetize that information to advertising networks on the web. But for that, they need access to the data they pledged to protect.
Now, if a company can access your data, then so can a hacker. Likewise, governments practicing mass surveillance will certainly demand access to that trove of personal data. In fact, they might not even ask for it.
Therefore when companies assure you they would never share your data with anybody, they provide in fact a weak guarantee of privacy.
How might we make sure our online privacy is respected?
The only way to ensure communications remain private is to “lock” the information before it leaves your device. And no one but the persons communicating must be able to remove that lock.
Of course, that means any company offering the service cannot use your data to make money. So they must resolve to displaying untargeted ads or ask for a fee to use the service.
That’s the only way to make sure your online privacy is respected.