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Preventing privacy perils
SECURITY

Preventing privacy perils 

As stories about security breaches, information leaks and other forms of cybercrime continue to make international headlines, Private.me is looking to change the face of Web-based privacy.

The newly-launched service provides users with an arsenal of digital privacy tools that safeguards users’ data through a patent-pending encryption and fragmenting process. The data is then distributed to a system of worldwide servers for added protection, thus allowing it to stay out of harm’s way.

The idea for this service was conceived after a realization that data shared or posted online can easily be obtained by collectors and used for illicit purposes.

“When we were looking at some of the major security breaches going on, we kept thinking that it was a wild mess,” recalls Robert Neivert, COO of Private.me.

“After a number of back-and-forth discussions, we realized one of the basic problems is that your information is so prevalent everywhere,” Neivert continues. “You give up your name, address, email and other personal information thousands of times, and it’s copied so (frequently) that it’s not that hard to get to.”

With sensitive data becoming easier for cyber criminals to obtain, Private.me entered the security space to ensure that user information would remain under lock and key at all times. Neivert notes that other companies have been offering data protection services for several years, but the level of defence they offered was often insufficient.

“Five or ten years ago, there were only a handful of companies, and people thought that they were fairly secure,” he says. “But now, we’re finding that it is simply not true. It’s now so profitable and so prevalent that people are saying it has to be dealt with. At some level, we often accept things like credit card fraud in the background, but sometimes, they become too painful, and we have to deal with them. We’re approaching that point now where it’s becoming so dominant that you just can’t ignore the problem any further.”

Private.me employs several methods that ensure the safety of user data. As Neivert explains, the protection process seeks to provide users with more control over their data, which prevents it from being used by data-collecting companies for their own purposes.

“If companies don’t have the information, it can’t be stolen or misused, and they can’t use it to target ads unless you want them to,” says Neivert. “The whole idea is that instead of the companies having control, the user has the control. That’s the most basic principle.”

According to Neivert, the majority of security firms store data from their users in an unencrypted database. This can potentially pose a major problem, as if a hacker gains access to the data silo, they will easily be able to extract the entire supply at once and potentially profit from it. With this in mind, Private.me developed a more secure approach to data storage.

“When the data is stored more securely in one place, it is much more difficult to access that information,” he says. “First, we reduce the prevalence of the data, and second, since this is our specialty, we’re certainly a lot more careful about the information. Third, unlike companies who make money using your data, our financial incentive is to protect your data.”

Where data defenders are smart, hackers are often smarter, often finding new means of circumventing barricades or other means of protection. However, despite their best efforts, Neivert believes that Private.me can thwart the attempts of these bad actors by securing the data under numerous layers.

“From a technical perspective, the data is sliced up and distributed to multiple vaults,” says Neivert. “In order for a hacker to access your information, they would have to breach multiple vaults, each of which has different security systems involved, and then reassemble the data that way. This is fairly complicated work.”

Unlike other protection firms, who often have unbridled access to their customers’ data, Private.me’s protection system is so secure, the company itself does not have access to the information. It is stored in the vaults, and provided to the users upon request.

“Private.me does not have access to the data, which is to say that even if a hacker did breach our system, they still can’t get to the records because even we can’t read the records,” Neivert clarifies. “Most companies don’t do that because they want to use the data and sell it. We don’t. Because our company’s purpose is protection and not monetization of the data, we can do many things other companies can’t.”

Looking ahead, Private.me hopes to establish key relationships with major corporations in order to demonstrate the functionality of their data protection model, which could potentially help enterprises to reduce costs and remain profitable.

“As we roll out our API to companies, our future plans are to bring on a handful of large customers to show that personal data can be protected, and companies can still be profitable without having access to or selling this data,” says Neivert.

“In fact, we think this is more profitable because if they don’t have (access to) the data, they don’t need more infrastructure to protect it,” he adds. “This is a huge amount of internal resources they no longer need to have, and an enormous amount of liability they no longer have. As a result, we think the companies will gain, and the customers will gain as well. The Internet infrastructure itself will also gain since privacy is becoming so problematic now that we think it will help the Internet continue to grow when people can better protect their personal data.”

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