Scanning images to identify people, using data to personalize ads, and passing collated information to affiliates – are just a few ways in which tech companies harness your personal information. Privacy policies can be overwhelming to read. Clicking through opt-outs is time-consuming. Preserving online privacy becomes more and more of a hassle if we are aware of the tech giants' data collection practices.
Ten years ago (indeed, we've just celebrated our anniversary), our founder Istvan Lam had a pretty accurate presentiment of how the digital world would evolve and wanted to counteract the tendency of online privacy shrinking. The idea was to create a private place for everyone's personal data. The solution became Tresorit, with end-to-end encryption (e2ee) at its core. Tresorit's recent acquisition by Swiss Post marks another milestone on this journey. To mark the occasion (and for many other reasons, Swiss Post's InnoPodcast invited our CEO István Lám to talk about Tresorit's mission.
Take a sneak peek at the highlights of the talk and learn more about Tresorit from our CEO's perspective:
Istvan's early realization of the importance of privacy: He wanted to back up his photos in Google's image library, which was powered by sophisticated facial recognition technology even 10 years ago. "It is simply freaking me out that someone else knows who is in the picture," Istvan explains. This prompted him to come up with an alternative that could offer the security and privacy of a bank vault. (Hence the name “Tresorit” having its origin in the German word for bank vault: “Tresor.")
Tresorit's legendary hacker challenge mobilized hundreds of universities and thousands of hackers and indelibly put Tresorit on the map of security-focused digital services. The combination of e2ee and client-side key management proved unbreakable and the foundation of a robust system. As a result, Tresorit's customer base multiplied within just a week.
Data collection as a business model: "You are paying with your data; you are not the customer," – says Istvan, explaining the business strategy of Google and co. On the one hand, data analysis can personalize user experience. On the other hand, users disclose their personal information, which allows algorithms to monitor their digital lives. Through the concept of a panopticon Istvan explains how this modern form of surveillance can impact user behavior and restrict their choice and freedom in the online space.
Taking the hard road to build a private alternative: Going against the mainstream comes with its own risks and rewards. But that's exactly what has made Tresorit's vision so enticing. Paraphrasing the words of J. F. Kennedy, Istvan says: "We chose end-to-end encryption not because it's easy, but because it's hard… We at Tresorit feel that we are working on the next moon landing because this territory is a truly new area where no one was before."
Creating privacy-protective cloud storage required Tresorit to take a reverse approach to the tightrope between security and usability. Ease of use, however, has never been sacrificed. In fact, it has always been as important as security in the design of Tresorit's secure architecture.
Enabling confidentiality in business communication: Tresorit realized early on that there was growing interest from privacy-conscious individuals and the business world. With the workplace becoming more and more digital, online threats and data protection regulations present a growing challenge for companies. Therefore, ensuring the confidentiality of information exchange – e. g. in board communication, collaboration with external partners, etc. – can no longer just depend on trust. It requires technical safeguards.
A new chapter with Swiss Post: "Bringing back the letter secrecy to the digital world" is how Istvan sums up the vision of Tresorit's joint undertaking with Swiss Post. The digital counterpart of letter secrecy (the strongest promise of protection a postal service can give) is online privacy and confidentiality. This shared value is the catalyst that pushes us to bring secure solutions to even more people and businesses.