The Veilid Protocol

by Chelsea Zimmerman Chelsea Zimmerman | Aug 11, 2023 10:37:08 AM

In an era where the boundaries between the virtual and the real world continue to blur, concerns over digital privacy have reached an all-time high. As individuals leave behind an ever-expanding digital footprint through web searches, social media interactions, and messaging app conversations, the need to safeguard personal data from prying eyes has become paramount.
Against this backdrop, breaking news has emerged of a groundbreaking development in the realm of data security—a revolutionary new end-to-end encryption model that promises to elevate the protection of our online communications to unprecedented levels.
But before we get to that, let's remind ourselves why this issue is so important.

How Your Data is Collected by Big Tech

  1. Web Searches: When you use a search engine, such as Google, Bing, or Yahoo, the search queries you enter are recorded and associated with your device's unique identifier, IP address, and sometimes even your location. This data is used to understand your interests, refine search results, and deliver targeted advertisements. 

  2. Social Media: Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn collect a wealth of information from your interactions. This includes your posts, likes, comments, shares, friend connections, and more. This data helps these platforms create detailed user profiles, understand your preferences, and serve you personalized content and ads. They might also track your interactions with content from third-party websites that have integrated social media plugins.

  3. Messaging Apps: Messaging apps like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and others may collect data from your conversations that are not end-to-end encrypted. This can include metadata such as who you communicate with, the frequency of your interactions, and the types of content you share. While the content of end-to-end encrypted messages is typically not accessible to the platform itself, metadata can still provide valuable insights.

  4. Cookies and Tracking: Many websites use cookies and other tracking technologies to monitor your online behavior. These small pieces of data are stored on your device and can track your movements across different websites. Advertisers and big tech companies may use this information to understand your interests and target you with relevant ads.

  5. Data Aggregation: Big tech companies often combine data from various sources to create comprehensive user profiles. For example, they might link your search history with your social media activity and other online interactions. This allows them to create a more detailed and accurate picture of your preferences and behaviors.

  6. Third-party Data Sources: Some big tech companies also purchase or collect data from third-party sources, such as data brokers, to augment their user profiles. These sources can provide additional information about your offline activities, demographics, purchasing behavior, and more.

There have been efforts to enhance user privacy and data protection, and some regulations like the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) in the United States have been introduced to give users more control over their data and how it's collected and used.

Current Alternatives to Big Tech for Web Browsing

Services like Tor (The Onion Router) and DuckDuckGo emphasize user privacy and take different approaches to data collection compared to traditional big tech companies.

  1. Tor (The Onion Router): Tor is a network designed to provide users with anonymity by routing their internet traffic through a series of volunteer-operated servers. This makes it difficult for anyone, including websites and online services, to trace your online activities back to your physical location. Tor is commonly used to access the internet anonymously, bypass censorship, and protect sensitive communications. While Tor itself doesn't collect data about your online activities, it's important to note that the privacy Tor provides is primarily related to anonymizing your connection rather than the data you interact with.

  2. DuckDuckGo: DuckDuckGo is a privacy-focused search engine that aims to provide users with search results without tracking their searches or collecting personal information. Unlike major search engines like Google, DuckDuckGo doesn't store or share your search history, IP address, or other identifiable data. In their Privacy Policy, DuckDuckGo elaborates, "For example, we may know that we got a lot of searches for 'cute cat pictures' today, but we don’t know who actually performed those searches." This approach is in contrast to big tech companies that often track user behavior to deliver personalized ads and content.

Both Tor and DuckDuckGo prioritize user privacy and strive to minimize data collection and tracking. Tor provides anonymity by routing your traffic through a series of nodes, while DuckDuckGo focuses on delivering search results without collecting personal information. But remember, once you navigate away from the browser and onto the specific websites you visit, your interaction with those websites is subject to their own privacy practices.

The New Solution to Data Privacy 

The self-described "hacktivists" Cult of the Dead Cow (cDc) are launching a new framework this weekend at the DEFCON hacking conference. The new framework, Veilid, will be a code that developers can use to build new apps and even social media on.

On the Veilid Framework site, the founders write, "We believe that people should be able to build relationships, learn, create, and build online without being monetized. With Veilid, the user is in control, in a way that is approachable and friendly to everyone, regardless of technical ability."

Poised to reshape the landscape of online privacy, the Veilid Framework has the potential to redefine how individuals interact and share information in the digital age, offering a glimmer of hope for those seeking to regain control over their personal data in an increasingly interconnected world.

This privacy is achieved through the Veilid Protocol, which is the end-to-end encryption model the code is built on.

We are looking forward to seeing the full reveal this weekend and learning more about how the Veilid protocol works.


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