One question that I often get when I discuss what we do at Cozy Cloud is: “How do you want to replace the Google paradigm without becoming the next Google?”
As I was on the main stage at the MyData 2017 event in Tallinn and Helsinki recently, I thought is was a great opportunity to respond to this question. First, let explain that we do not plan to kill Google as a company. However, we consider that their current model is toxic for society: collecting personal data to profile people in order to display targeted advertising is — as Edward Snowden explains so clearly — de facto what makes state mass surveillance economically possible.
Now, offering digital services that are customized for each individual is a must and it cannot be done without personal data. So how can we provide such customized services without damaging user privacy? This is exactly what Cozy and other PIMS projects are about: provide solutions that empower people with their data; but there are a few key differences with what Internet giants do. Let’s go through them:
Personal data is stored in personal clouds. Such personal clouds can be self-hosted (if you are knowledgeable enough to do this), which means that your data can be physically hosted on a computer running at home, connected to the Internet through your high-speed connection. You can also host this on a server at in a datacenter or you can have a third party that hosts and administers your Cozy cloud for you. That’s the beauty of the approach: if you’re not happy with your current hosting solution, you are free to move your data to another solution while getting roughly the same features. Personal clouds are therefore a lot less centralized, on top of being private, which means that it makes surveillance a lot harder compared to the centralized model.
Free / Open source software
One major issue when one puts his/her data into a system is trust: how can I be sure that my data is not being used in ways that I don’t want? If the software code is proprietary / closed source, then there is not a lot I can do. I need to believe in the good faith of the company when they say they care about my privacy. Honestly, I’ve read so many privacy policies and Terms of Services that stated “we care about your privacy” while explaining a couple of pages further down that they communicated my data to third parties that I have a hard time with this approach.
This is why Cozy is an open-source project which code is licensed under the well-known AGPL (Affero General Public License, a free software license for application services providers).
To keep things simple, let’s just say that by being open source, the source code of our software has to be public, which means that people who want can check if the software does what it says it does. While not everyone is willing to read source code (honestly, it’s quite boring), this approach brings transparency to what the software does, in ways that promote trust: if Cozy does something silly with the software, people will notice because it will be obvious, this is why Cozy won’t do it.
In a post-Google world, the Internet should be open-source and decentralized! - Click to tweet
Why would you choose Cozy today?
At Cozy, we think that by promoting Internet decentralization and Open Source software, we’re helping Making the Internet Great Again (feeling some cognitive dissonance? No worries, that’s intended!). We want to create systems that are better at serving the users’ interests. In this, decentralization and open source are key. Oh and if Internet giants want to switch to this new paradigm and join Cozy, they are more than welcome. Provided that they give up on their bad habit of collecting personal data on a global scale!