I will always remember the first time I realized that my privacy was being compromised. I had just finished reading an article in WIRED magazine entitled “The NSA Is Building The Country’s Biggest Spy Center” back in 2012. At first I didn’t really know how to react when learning that the National Security Agency was building a two billion dollar compound in the middle of the Utah desert who’s purpose is “to intercept, decipher, analyze, and store vast swaths of the world’s communications.” It seemed insane at first. Then, with a bit of contemplation, I told myself it probably wasn’t a big deal. Surely they have their reasons. If anything, it would probably help make the world a better and safer place. Right?
Turn’s out the NSA was the least of my privacy’s worries. What has come to light with regards to personal data mining/collection since that article was published seven years ago has truly been unprecedented in all of human history. Not only is my privacy at stake, but the means of protecting it aren’t adequate at all.
The most notable example of this phenomenon has to be the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica Data Scandal, where it was revealed that data mining firm Cambridge Analytica “had harvested the personal data of millions of people’s Facebook profiles without their consent and used it for political purposes.” Facebook later confirmed that around 87 million users were affected due to it’s data sharing policies.
Not only is our personal information being collected and stored, but the corporations who you trust with this information are clearly not equipped, or willing, to protect it. One example of this (among many others) would be the close to 400 million guests who had their phone numbers, email addresses and passport numbers as well as some payment card numbers stolen from the Marriott’s Starwood hotels reservation database from 2014 to September 2018.
These use cases are just the tip of the iceberg. One thing is clear though. We are entering an age where personal information and privacy are becoming a currency in it of itself. Like anything that has value, it must be protected from prying eyes. You may have nothing to hide, but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a problem with entities who should be trustworthy mismanaging your personal information.
One of the biggest issues with securing data is the centralized nature of the technologies used to hold your information. Having large amounts of personal information in one location (i.e. data centers) represents a big and obvious target for whoever wants to try hard enough to gain access. One of the most promising solutions to this problem, which has gained a lot of traction in recent years due to it’s technical implementation through blockchain technology, is decentralization. Decentralized applications (or Dapps), are applications composed of systems who’s components are located on different networked computers or devices. Trust is built into the system in such a way that the application working is proof itself that it is secure. An example of such an implementation is a peer-to-peer application. At its core, Jami is exactly that.
Jami offers a means of communication while harnessing the power of distributed systems. Imagine being able to call, text and exchange information with other people without having to think about who or what is providing the service. You don’t need to worry about the integrity of the service provider because whoever is supplying the network is directly contributing to its security just by being part of it.
The protection of your identity isn’t an issue for Jami either. In fact, it offers a way of joining the network through a digital account without requiring you to even expose your identity. It stores your secrets (private keys for encryption) only on the device which executes it. You are therefore the only holder of your information.
As if it wasn’t enough, Jami also uses the latest encryption technologies. It uses distributed hash tables to establish communications which enables the application to work without the retention of personal data. Mass surveillance cannot take place because no data servers hold any information in a centralized area.
Finally, Jami is also free, doesn’t contain any ads, and, most of all, is open source. Anyone can check the source code and it’s relatively easy to verify and validate how the application works. It also enables anyone to contribute to the development of the platform through a healthy community of developers.
Our data may not be secure anymore using conventional ways of communications. One thing that has been made abundantly clear over the last few years is the unwillingness, or incapability, of big corporations to invest time and money in protecting the vast amount of data they accumulate. Not only that, but they seem to use that information to turn a profit. The means by which we communicate has always played a big part of how we, as a species, have evolved into the society we are today. The powers that be seem to have taken advantage of such technologies for their own benefit instead of using it for the greater good. It’s time for us to take matters into our own hands. We may still being watched, but not for long.
By Eden Abitbol