Privacy-focused blockchain file storage service Internxt has a lofty vision: leverage decentralized technology to break Big Tech’s monopoly over user data. Its first product, Internxt Drive, aims to compete as an alternative to Google Drive and Dropbox — without compromising personal privacy and data ownership.
In an exclusive interview with Cointelegraph, Internxt CEO Fran Villalba Segarra described the core technology behind his product and explained why privacy should be considered a fundamental human right. He also explained the perils of centralized architecture, why Big Tech constantly violates user privacy and what’s in store for internet users in the era of Web 3.
Although privacy advocates have long been concerned about Big Tech’s exploits of user data, Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal in 2018 blew the lid wide open on the subject. (As a refresher, Cambridge Analytica is a British consulting firm that was able to obtain data on millions of Facebook users without their consent. Their information was then used for political advertising.) In July 2019, the Federal Trade Commission fined the social media giant a whopping $5 billion for privacy violations.
In retrospect, exploits like Cambridge Analytica didn’t surprise Segarra, who told Cointelegraph that protecting users’ privacy conflicts with the business model of companies like Facebook, Google and Microsoft. “That’s why these companies collect more data than what is actually needed,” he explained. “Their services aren’t an end per se, but a means to an end.”
“Zero-knowledge file storage service”
The erosion of personal privacy by Big Tech compelled Segarra and his team to create a new business model based on decentralization. The company’s first product, Internxt Drive, is described as an alternative to Google Drive and Dropbox that’s based on zero-knowledge encryption and geodistributed data centers. He explained:
“Files uploaded to Internxt Drive are fragmented, client-side encrypted, and distributed all over the globe, so that a server never holds a complete file, but instead an encrypted data shard [...] In these architectures, files are often split into evenly sized segments of data. Each segment or block has its own address but no metadata to provide context about what it is. The storage target can be configured to replicate data across storage arrays or distributed file systems.”
Unlike centralized systems, where user data is stored on physical servers owned and operated by the cloud provider, decentralized architecture provides enhanced security with respect to cloud functionality.
“If a decentralized component is compromised or encounters a runtime error, which is an unrecoverable worst-case scenario in that the component goes offline while the rest of the cloud continues to function normally,” he explained. On the other hand, with centralized cloud storage systems, core functions are interlaced within the same space. “If an error or attack manages to destabilize a centralized component, the entire cloud is at risk.”
Web 3 and the future of privacy
Web 3 — a broad concept that refers to the new paradigm of internet services where users retain more control of their personal data — has been heralded as a potential solution to society’s growing privacy concerns. The current paradigm, dubbed Web 2, is mainly driven by companies that provide services in exchange for personal data.
The advent of blockchain technology has made decentralization nearly synonymous with Web 3. The decentralized cloud storage technology being championed by Internxt aligns with the narrative that Web 3 changes the very nature of data ownership and puts more control in the hands of users as opposed to the Big Tech companies. Industry observers have rightly noted that this new paradigm could challenge existing privacy regulations, especially as decentralized applications continue to grow.
“Web 3 is certainly going to be huge,” Segarra said, adding that consumer-centric applications that allow users to protect themselves online is “going to be hugely demanded by the market.”
Internxt is coming off a successful seed round, having raised $1 million in a raise that was led by Miami-based venture fund Venture City. Segarra said adoption is growing, with the company expected to generate 1,500% year-over-year growth by the end of 2021.