The Egg (a unique private message server for consumers and small businesses) caught my attention because of the word “private.” As a digital marketer, I don’t really believe in privacy. My job is to share messages that reach as much of my clients’ ideal audience as possible, as fast as possible, as cost-efficiently as possible. Still, I know that privacy is a thing, that some people want it, and that, during this wild west digital revolution, we don’t reliably have it.
Internet Privacy in the Trump Era
In April of 2017, Trump rolled back privacy protections before they could even be implemented. According to CNN:
President Trump signed into law a resolution that repealed protections requiring Internet service providers to get your permission before collecting and sharing data. These protections — which had not yet gone into effect — were approved by the Federal Communications Commission in the final days of the Obama administration.
The providers have data on your web browsing history, app usage and geo-location.
Providers would also have been required to notify customers about the types of information collected and shared.
The law did not apply to companies like Google and Facebook, which actually have far more private information about us than do internet service providers. Here’s what the NY Times had to say:
Broadband companies, privacy experts said, occupy a different position than internet companies. Google and Facebook, they noted, are corporate giants with plenty of market clout. But they are not a fundamental pathway to the internet the way the broadband providers are. And, privacy experts said, there is little or no competition for broadband service in many markets.
“You can live without Google or Facebook,” said Dallas Harris, a legal and policy fellow at Public Knowledge, a nonprofit consumer group. “It’s pretty difficult to walk away from internet service altogether.”
The other thing we do not have today is a decentralized web.
What is a Decentralized Web and Why Do I Care?
First, a bit of history. A lot of good things happened in 1969, including my birth and the birth of the internet as we know it today. When Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web, he gave it as a gift to humanity. It was free for everyone and completely decentralized. In this case, “decentralized” means that everyone who used the internet had their own server and connected as individuals.
Today, with the development of the cloud and centralized internet service providers, we all pay for the convenience of having someone else manage our servers and allowing us to connect with very little fuss, if any. The evolution of the internet is a trade-off between convenience and control. Who controls internet access is a big money question.
Who Makes Money Off a Centralized Web?
The people who are making the most money off the centralized web today are Facebook and Google. They use our data for targeted advertising that generates billions of dollars in annual revenue.
Broadband and internet service providers make much less money off our privacy, but they have access to even more specific private data. These providers have access to exactly which websites you have visited, who you sent messages to, the content of the messages, images of you, and more.
The question is: Do you want to outside companies to have access to this data, or would you like, for example, to be able to have some of your searches and visits be private and not for potential sale?
The Future of the Web
Today, there is a mostly invisible group of techies that is working on your privacy, and providing options for a decentralized web. You did not ask for it, but perhaps you will get it.
Tim Berners-Lee has a product called Solid, that allows data (meaning files, messages, images, and more) to be shared individual to individual, and to be owned by the individuals sharing it. This is in contrast to the fact that, for example, Facebook owns your posts. Did you know that?
You may have heard of Bitcoins. Bitcoins are a peer-to-peer monetary system invented by an individual, or perhaps a group, programmer who is anonymous and goes by the name Satoshi Nakamoto. Simplified as much as possible for those of us who do not understand the (admittedly complex) technology, bitcoins are perhaps the most famous of the “blockchain technologies” that allow the web to be monetized by individuals as they use it. Imagine, if you will, a social network that compensates you for your contributions — as opposed to the Facebook model, which requires (at least business owners) to pay to have their contributions seen (via advertising and boosted posts).
It is interesting to know that, as the internet approaches 50, many things have changed. Computer technology continues to race forward even as there have been so many unintended consequences. Tim Berners-Lee expected the internet to be a free resource, even if only people with advanced tech skills could access it.
Today, the barriers to entry on the internet are low to non existent, especially in first world countries. The trade-offs have been monetization by a few large players (recentralization) and the loss of a privacy most of us had no idea we would need in 2017 when the first iPhone launched.
Enter The Egg
Barry Solomon, VP of Sales and Marketing, Eggcyte, Inc., is a maverick, but he is a quiet one. After he agreed to give me an Egg so I could test it and share about it on the Colibri Digital Marketing blog, we met up at St. Frank’s on Polk Street and enjoyed a cup of coffee and an opportunity to chat.
Barry has been in Silicon Valley, specializing in leading edge products, for over 20 years and has worked for giants like Intel. In fact, The Egg was born at Intel where Barry and his business partner initially developed it. Everything about The Egg, including the fact that Intel allowed Barry and his partner to take the technology with them when they left is just a little bit out of the ordinary.
What is The Egg?
The Egg is a private messaging server. Fans of Mike Pence (the not famous private server user) and Hillary Clinton (the infamous private server user) take note: Now you can have your very own private server.
If you are like me, you don’t have government secrets that the Russians may or not hack, but there are many other examples of things ordinary people like you and I might want to keep private.
For example, you might want to photo-share pictures of your baby without posting them on Facebook. Or you might want to tell your girlfriend you love her and have that message be one that no one else can view or share.
The, dare I say it, eggcyting thing is that not everyone you know has to have an Egg for it to work. You can let your friends be members of your Egg, and share data with them privately. And just to be clear about what I mean by data, I mean cat videos!
In my case, as a digital marketer, I sometimes need to get sensitive data from clients, such as their credit card numbers. What could be more perfect than the ability to use a normal text message, sent via private server, to get that information and be sure that no one else can see it?
The use cases for privacy in business are pretty much limitless. As Barry told me, “We will go wherever the market takes us.”
Why The Egg is Important (Hint: Choice!)
I asked Barry why they invented The Egg, and here is what he had to say:
“What drove us down the path of an Egg-like device was that we were creating so much digital media, but we didn’t have a way to store it and share it privately. This morphed into the mission of creating a truly private alternative to social media and cloud-based products using private servers.
“We are so contrarian on so many levels. We recognize that. We are creating a discrete hardware device. How many people go down the road of creating hardware? We are advocating that people share and store outside of the cloud.
“I don’t think you can escape it, but there is a place for privacy. There is a part of our lives that requires intimacy. We’re on a mission, which is a Don Quixote kind of thing, a little egg sitting under a big cloud.
“I often say George Orwell wouldn’t have dreamed of the fact that people are just handing over their personal information to Big Brother without even thinking about it. There needs, ultimately, to be a healthy balance. And we all deserve that.”
I will admit that, besides the need to protect my clients’ data, I had not, until I spoke with Barry, really thought about privacy in this way or considered the issue of decentralization. It’s interesting too, that The Egg has very few competitors.
I think that contemporary people, especially those of us associated with tech, are in a somewhat toxic haze, not considering the implications of the cloud, in our rush to “get it done.”
As a triple bottom line business and CEO of B Corp-certified Colibri Digital Marketing, my invitation to you is this: Take a little time to consider whether privacy and decentralization are important to you, and how you as a consumer and citizen can make a difference.
If you have questions about The Egg, check out their website at https://www.eggcyte.com. Don’t hesitate to reach out to Barry at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Internet Privacy in the Trump Era
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Originally published at colibridigitalmarketing.com on April 27, 2017.