Privly: Organise your next coup online, in total privacy

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There’s a Kickstarter project I want you to know about. It’s called Privly and it’s a defiant kick to the face of oppressive governments.

The Privly proof of concept works as a browser plugin and will allow you to view and post encrypted content on any website — Twitter, Facebook, Google+, even Gmail. Let your imagination run wild.

Taking Twitter as an example, you write a tweet — 140 characters or more — right click and select “Post to Privly.” The text of your tweet gets sent to (and stored on) the Privly servers which return a link, for example: http://priv.ly/posts/51. When you post this link to Twitter, people running Privly will be able to see the text of your tweet.

One day soon you could be organising a coup or whining about work without getting fired, all on your favourite social network. Since Privly allows you to change the text that your link points to, Privly could also be used to “unsend” or edit emails or status updates after they’ve been posted.

Privly will also appeal to you if you hate the idea of companies commoditising your data without your consent.

The project is led by Sean McGregor, a Computer Science PhD candidate at Oregon State University. He is aided by Balaji Athreya, Jesse Hostetler and Swetal Patel.

With the help of 565 backers (and counting), Privly has exceeded its goal of US$10 000, raising US$26 891 so far. In its current state, Privly allows for viewing and posting in Firefox, but there’s no encryption in place to ensure complete privacy and security. McGregor et al. would also like to move to a peer-to-peer system instead of storing information centrally.

Running ads against user-generated content is the standard business model of free services on the web. Privly could therefore run the risk of being scorned on popular social networks. It’s an interesting point to monitor as Twitter wishes to remain an integral part in human rights and freedom of expression as it did during the uprisings of 2011. Twitter has also made adjustments to its privacy policy to retain a foothold in oppressive countries.

Beyond privacy issues, Privly could raise an interesting debate about data ownership and with its inherent “editable” email implications and data impermanence. It asks questions about the fundamental ways in which the web operates today.

Are you ready for a revolution, man?

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