Tech firms react to netizens’ digital privacy concerns

Fri, 2019-11-08 05:35

LISBON: Whistleblowers and digital pioneers have long been
sounding the alarm about abuses of our privacy online.

Now, a slew of tech entrepreneurs are bidding to turn growing
consciousness about the problem into a money-making industry and
many showcased their skills at this week’s Web Summit in

“Undeniably, with the new tensions that exist, obviously there
is a movement among people to regain their right to privacy,”
organiser Paddy Cosgrave told AFP.

“Providing personalised encryption at the level of the device,
so that any key stroke on your device is unreadable by a third
party … is booming. There are many companies trying to make
progress in this space,” Cosgrave said.

“I believe there is an entire new industry around digital
identity, data ownership, data management and data monetisation for
yourself,” said American Brittany Kaiser who helped lift the lid
on data abuses at Cambridge Analytica which last year found itself
embroiled in a scandal involving the misuse of Facebook data.

Kaiser’s work at Cambridge Analytica is also a subject of a
Netflix documentary, “The Great Hack”.

Kaiser co-created a foundation “Own your data” in order to
“blow the whistle on the whole industry” and denounce abuses of
companies harvesting data without web users’ explicit

She warned that “it’s going to be hard to get to the point
of mass adoption” of products and services designed to allay
privacy fears but sees a “wave of momentum” after a
year-and-a-half of campaigning.

Brendan Eich, founder of the Brave browser, as well as Mozilla
and Firefox and the man behind JavaScript, observed “small
minorities can move markets, and that’s happening”.

The way ahead is “privacy by default,” said Eich, touting
data protection and adblock capabilities as key Brave

Eich hopes Brave will have 10 million users by year’s end,
although he said that would have to double or even triple before it
could generate revenues from opt-in online ads.

US “godfather of crypto” currencies, David Chaum, meanwhile
said he believed the digital world has reached a key juncture.

“This is like a kind of a historic moment. I think if you look
at smartphones, the killer app is clearly messaging integrated with

Chaum is behind Elixxir, which seeks to offer digital privacy by
deploying a mobile messaging app partnered with a virtual payment
vehicle along the lines of Chinese behemoth Tencent’s We Chat
platform, securing communications through blockchain

Briton David Chance also wants to take digital privacy to
another level having left Google to launch a startup,, offering retrieval of data which has remained in
the public sphere without user consent.

“The most shocking thing is the scale of the problem,” says
Chance. “We find personal data for about 80 percent of the people
that sign up for our service. That could be a phone number, an
email address or a date of birth.

“Companies are gathering up information that we kind of left
as our online footprints and are using this to determine whether
somebody gets a job, credit or a mortgage.”

Following criticism for not doing enough to secure user data,
Facebook recently promised to bring end-to-end encryption to its
Messenger platform, as is already the case with WhatsApp.

Jay Sullivan, whom Facebook recruited earlier this year as
Messenger’s director of product management and privacy and
integrity issues, says data protection is now a basic reqirement, a
decade after Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg suggested privacy was
no longer a “social norm” or indeed to be expected.

Eich said consent is key.

“People don’t like (being tracked). They think, ‘I feel
like some creeper is stalking me. I feel abused’,” he said.


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Source: FS – All-News-Economy
Tech firms react to netizens’ digital privacy concerns