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Data privacy and the business of the internet

2 min read

The business model of the internet as it functions today isn’t compatible with privacy.

That’s the message Andy Yen conveys in his TEDGlobal talk. Filmed this past October, Andy, a CERN scientist, shares the motivation behind starting ProtonMail.

“Today, the average person has an astounding amount of personal information online, and we add to this online information every single time we post on Facebook, each time we search on Google, and each time we send an email.

Now, many of use probably think, well, one email, there’s nothing in there, right? But if you consider a year’s worth of emails, or maybe even a lifetime of email, collectively, this tells a lot. It tell where we have been, who we have met, and in many ways, even what we’re thinking about. And the more scary part about this is our data now lasts forever, so your data can and will outlive you.”

We've lost control of our data

Andy says that we’ve largely lost control over our own data, and there’s a new, younger generation being raised to share everything online. They may grow up with a completely different concept of privacy.

Encryption could help make email a more private means of communication, but PGP as an encryption method is too complicated and inaccessible for the average person to understand and use. ProtonMail is trying to solve this problem for consumer email.

They also want to change the norm from an internet focused on maximizing ad revenue to an internet with data protection and privacy at its core.

Andy says, “…we need to support a different business model for the Internet, one that does not rely entirely on advertisements for revenue and for growth. We actually need to build a new Internet where our privacy and our ability to control our data is first and foremost.”

You can watch the full TED talk here.