In the last five years many services have been moved to the cloud. Several people have also changed from local email service providers to the likes of Google, Yahoo or Microsoft. Can the current privacy concerns challenge this development? Is it an opportunity for new solutions and local service providers? It’s time to re-think online personal and business services.
The leaks that exposed NSA’s activities in the US and abroad started this discussion some weeks ago. Since then similar news have emerged from many countries like the UK, Germany and France. It is clear that security agencies everywhere want comprehensive surveillance frameworks. But it is also a fact that companies and people have voluntarily given a lot of their own data to 3rd parties.
Technically it is not too difficult to improve your data security and privacy. It is not easy to create something that a top-level security agency wouldn’t be able to open, if they really want to, but you can significantly increase your own privacy protection from criminal activity, curious people and accidental data leaks. One simple thing to start is to use encryption for data and email, and control how much data is really needed for each service one uses. There are also some legal limitations of encryption in some countries or requirements to deposit keys or reveal them based on authorities’ requirements (see more at http://www.cryptolaw.org).
This is also a business opportunity for service and application providers: how to make it easier for businesses and consumers to protect their data and communication. It means end-to-end solutions for encrypting communication and data sharing, easy-to-use tools to manage encryption and cipher keys, and interfaces to run on top of existing services, e.g. encryption for existing online mail. It also could mean tools that let users have their public profiles without real personal details, but still access the right type of services, selected ads and personalization.
Some countries have now seen an opportunity to become kinds of privacy havens for cloud services. For example, there have been stories that Switzerland could establish such a framework thanks to their privacy laws and long standing neutrality. It is much harder to actually evaluate, how tangible it could become. Most countries want to have surveillance, but no control at all can mean it starts to attract real criminal activity, which in turn would mean big countries definitely want to monitor the activity. It could become relatively similar to the situation that has occurred with banking: real tax havens and locations that have zero control over financial transactions now face increasing scrutiny and they must find the right balance.
Privacy and data security can be improved with small steps. It can be a real opportunity for new cloud providers, email services and data security applications.
This can be the time to challenge Google, Microsoft or Amazon (AWS). If you offer a solution that gives more control to users, better tools to manage security and reliable end-to-end communications, the time to go to market is now. Today people understand what you are talking about and why it is important.
Jouko Ahvenainen is serial-entrepreneur and co-founder of Grow VC Group (growvc.com), a new funding solution. In the 1990s Jouko worked for Nokia in Europe and Asia, and then lead the 3G practice at Capgemini globally. The last 12 years Jouko has been an entrepreneur and investor.