Facebook has never been known for security and user privacy. Now a new open-source social network Minds is poised to fill that void by using real encryption and not storing any user information so nothing can be handed over to the NSA.
1.4 Billion (Vulnerable) Users
Facebook is the most successful social network ever conceived, inline or offline, currently claiming over 1.4 billion users overall. This makes it about five times as popular as Twitter in user base. The last decade has clearly been all about Facebook, whether you are a social butterfly or a business looking to reach its massive following.
Younger demographics are heading more and more to Instagram and other networks that aren’t “their parents” social network. What’s more is that new holes in Facebook’s user agreements for 2015 have opened the door for government and other third parties to access user information.
General standards for user privacy appear to have been compromised, and this has created a new opportunity in the market. If there is room for a safer social network, Minds.com is looking to fill that space through encryption.
Encryption has been around for decades, used by national governments and militaries to your local bank’s online services. Now, digital currencies like bitcoin have shown that encryption can help anyone do more online while protecting users’ identity.
Minds looks to do the same for the social network concept and has released a new mobile app for iOS and Android. The app is open-source and is encrypted, so only the intended receiver gets the message. Chief executive Bill Ottman says this is the first encrypted social network app on the market. Ottman told CNet:
"A lot of companies will claim privacy and say they're encrypted. But it's not real encryption because we have no way of inspecting the code to see if there are backdoors.”
Ottman also notes a very important feature of Minds is the lack of collection of user information. Since no user information is collected by Minds, there is nothing to confiscate in case the NSA or other federal agency tries to strong-arm Minds like they’ve done to Yahoo and others. Ottman:
"If intelligence agencies ask for user data, we can't give it to them because we don't have it ourselves."
Minds profit model is not based on banner ads but on upsells of services and points that let users expose posts beyond their followers. Users earn points for free by using the service as an active member while users' posts automatically go out to all of their followers, like Twitter.
Keep in mind that all is not perfect at Minds and it is still in beta. The sign-up page asks you to agree to the terms and conditions (only an email, username, and password are required), but when you go to read them, there are no terms and conditions listed at all. Does that mean that there are no holds barred on your end? Their end?
Just like encryption has spread to digital currency, it looks ready to populate many common online networks to protect the privacy of users. The days of social networks as simple, centralized data mines for governments and private interests may be coming to an end as minds may be the first of a new generation of privacy-conscious social networks.
Do you still use Facebook? Are encrypted social networks the next big thing? Share above and comment below.