The tension between technology and privacy is not new. Imagine the excitement of the first man to hold a pair of binoculars, before the world knew that such a thing could even exist. He could see what others thought was safely hidden. (Boobs, one only assumes.) Granted, the power to invade privacy with complete freedom can have its downside; just ask Gollum.
Before binoculars, a person had the right to believe that, if there was nobody visible outside her window, her privacy was secure. After binoculars….if you didn’t close your blinds, you were looking to put on a show.
This basic human truth has evolved into a concept of law called “the reasonable expectation of privacy”. It was birthed by our Supreme Court in Katz v. United States, where the Court decided that a person had the right to believe that his conversation in a phone booth would be private; even though he was in public. That was a bad day for cops who wanted the only pair of binoculars in town. Technology made an advance (the wiretap), and then privacy reclaimed some of that ground. The system maintained some level of balance.
But in the nearly 50 years since Katz, privacy has been on a nasty losing streak. Technology has done a progressively better job of capturing moments that had previously been private. And now, with cameras and smart phones everywhere, the zone where you have a right to a “reasonable expectation of privacy” has narrowed to basically your bathroom with the lights off. Most of the general public is not even sure what their privacy rights are, let alone what to demand as a fundamental privacy right. As we are all conditioned to expect less and less privacy, expressions like “Don’t write anything in an email you wouldn’t want to see on the front page of the New York Times” start finding their way into our day to day life.
We are so used to the notion that everything we write and say is immune to privacy that it would serve us well to take a deep breath and realize just how f-ed up and out of proportion our world has become. Really? Just because you text “meet me at the restaurant” instead of saying it into someone’s ear, it HAS to exist for all time? And if you’re meeting someone at the restaurant to pick up a dime bag of weed (in 48 states, at least), a cop can read the text and throw you in jail? There has always been a tension between technology and privacy…but lately, technology has been the inmate with all the muscles and tattoos, and privacy has been the accountant convicted of tax evasion.
Well, good news for privacy fans: Mark Cuban had a keystroke of genius (his record of success is far too long for it to be luck) with his new app called CyberDust. Cyberdust is the future of text messaging and replaces most email communications as well. Mark has publicly demonstrated that by conducting business via the cutting edge mobile app. Earlier this year, BusinessInsider.com reported that after Mark Cuban’s email correspondence was leaked as a result of the Sony hack, he negotiated a new contract exclusively over Cyber Dust. When the most demanding shark in the entire tank uses Cyber Dust every day, you can be sure the bugs have been worked out.
The concept is simple. Cyber Dust messages disappear 24 seconds after you open them. They do not get stored, saved, cataloged or archived. Once the message disappears, that’s it. At first it seems like a dream and a nightmare rolled into one. What if you forget what you just read 30 seconds ago? Our modern age has conditioned us NOT to remember things, because we know that information typically lasts forever. But on the plus side….this does mean that you at least have a fighting chance of keeping your private conversations exactly what you indended them to be. Private.
Obviously, just because the technology exists doesn’t mean that it’s for everyone. Some people like the transparency and permanence of the current state of technology. Some think it’s an Orwellian nightmare from which we’ve been waiting for decades to emerge. Reasonable minds can disagree. I am sure that if you are in the “If you are doing nothing wrong, then you have nothing to hide” camp then you wouldn’t mind the government putting audio and video surveillance inside your home or asking you questions about your emails. You go ahead and volunteer and tell the rest of us how things are going.
The implications of Cyber Dust are more profound than the mere fact that some people will use it. Its very existence opens the door to the fact that Americans could once again have a reasonable expectation of privacy in what happens on their phones. Perhaps, just like in Katz, our Supreme Court could strike a blow against the kids (the cops) living the good life in the candy store (nearly ubiquitous access to our everyday lives). Sure, a ruling like that would require not just the right facts, but for 2-3 conservative justices to die before President Obama leaves office; preferably at an “Eyes Wide Shut” type orgy gone horribly right; I mean, wrong. (Hey, a libertarian can dream.)
From a privacy and security perspective, this app sets a new standard that many developers will find hard to live up to. It has a lot of the novelty that silicon valley craves, as well as keeping end users protected, and even cultivating an environment where people on Hollywood’s A-List can feel safe & free to talk without having to worry about their unfiltered remarks ending up on the front page of TMZ.
You might not be shocked to learn that Mark uses the app he owns. Would you be surprised to learn that you can download the app (available on Android & Apple Store) and send Mark a message that he will reply to? His Cyber Dust ID is blogmaverick in case you wanted to give it a shot. The other sharks from Shark Tank are on Cyber Dust, as well as numerous Mavericks players, celebrities and technology icons. Cyber Dust has a “popular” list of users here.
If you have any computer or cyber security questions, feel free to message me on CyberDust, my ID is +bryanthemapsguy.
About The Author
Bryan Seely is a former US Marine, ethical hacker, author and cyber security consultant.
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