Startups Speak: Democracy Requires a Right to Privacy

To date I have been operating on a rather simple premise. If democracy equals freedom and freedom equals privacy then - by the transitive property of mathematics - democracy and privacy must be intricately linked. Like all constitutional queries, the discussions we are having about privacy - and those yet to be had - are centered around a single question: what kind of country do we want to live in? This is a debate that “we the people” get to decide -- through thought, debate, policy, and in the actions we can take as independent citizens.

To the first point, the Constitution is a living breathing document. How, and in which ways, government should get involved is another question altogether. On the topic of privacy specifically, Washington can and should play an active role in setting guidelines around privacy policies -- as a contract between business and consumer -- in order to make the guidelines more transparent and easier to comprehend. If tobacco companies are forced to be clear with their consumers about the detrimental impact of smoking, the same should apply to companies that collect and deploy user data in potentially damaging ways.

But Washington is slow -- especially in comparison to the pace of technological and online innovation. But unlike other industries, technological advancement does not have to wait for government intervention. On this particular topic, we have the freedom and ability to develop privacy-first technologies that offer immediate benefit. My belief in the importance of privacy, and the necessary promotion of the ideal, led me to start SpiderOak where we are building cloud technologies that inject privacy

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into the conversation, and create a new way of thinking about our lives online.

The central component of SpiderOak is our 'Zero-Knowledge' Privacy approach. We define 'Zero-Knowledge' to mean the server has no knowledge of the data it is storing. As a result, the data on SpiderOak servers may never be compromised by external threats, prying eyes, or entities looking to gain access (which includes governments here and abroad). We are pushing the development of new technologies - including our open source application framework 'Crypton' - that will enable the mass distribution of 'Zero-Knowledge' to companies and developers alike.

It is our goal to use this privacy-first platform to further educate legislators on the importance and power of 'Zero-Knowledge' Privacy, as well as continue to work closely with advocacy groups to defend the right to privacy in Washington and beyond. An essential part of freedom is access to a level of privacy, and technology certainly has a role to play in supporting the latter to protect the former.

Watch the video here:

Startups Speak: Ethan Oberman from Engine Advocacy on Vimeo.