PUNTERS WHO fear the second coming of Cambridge Analytica can breathe easy after the announcement of a new social network which its designers say has zero privacy leakage.
Openbook (not to be confused with the search engine that was shut down under a mess of threats) was the result of a funding campaign backed by a team lead by Phillip Zimmermann, creator of PGP, the world's most popular email encryption package, and Jaya Baloo, the chief information officer of Dutch telecom company KPN.
The creator and CEO is one Joel Hernandez, who says he had always dreamed of making a Facebook alternative and was encouraged by the Cambridge Analytica scandal to get moving.
Facebook has somehow gone all Teflon and actually has more users now than before the scandal broke, but that's not the point, the point is that Openbook wants to do it better, promising that both it and any third-party integrations will be clear on what they're taking and why.
It has also confirmed it will have an internal audit team to ensure the developers keep its promises.
Data will be fully transferable from Twitter and Facebook under new data migration rules in Europe.
Mr Hernandez told the Financial Times (paywalled) that he wants a more "joyful" platform.
"It is really about building a social network that respects the privacy of its users, that's the main driver for me. But we realised that if we really wanted to succeed, we really needed to bring more to the table, we did not just want to build a Facebook clone," he said.
Ultimately, Openbook will have a Marketplace, which will allow it to be independent, but without taking adverts.
Rafael Laguna, CEO of Open Xchange, another company that prides itself on its privacy, remarked: "I agree that Facebook's model is unsalvageable when it comes to ethical services principles like privacy, addictiveness, data ownership and exploitation. Only a fully Open Source based service could provide the transparency necessary to make a contender trustworthy.
"But it doesn't stop there. A new Facebook must be federated, meaning anyone should be able to set up their own servers to be able to keep their data where they want it, like for example, email does. Maybe the Openbook concept provides that, if not, it definitely should.
"A big challenge will be to crack the network platform effect. Many, like Diaspora or Ello have tried, with mixed results. Unless the service gets used by enough people, it won't be really useful. If it's not useful, few people will use it at all or more than once or twice, we've all been there with messengers, haven't we?
"I would suggest to build Openbook as a federated, open source software using email as the storage backend, which automatically makes it federated and available to billions of people using email, not requiring a new identity (it's your email address) and giving users choice, where their data sits."
Initial funds for Openbook will come from a Kickstart campaign which begins tomorrow.
"We really want this initial effort driven by what we believe in, not really a business model or capital," said Hernandez. This compares with Facebook which Hernandez believes is "inherently anti-privacy", and indeed its entire business model depends on that. μ
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