TL; DR : I am joining the leadership team of a very cool French startup called Cozy Cloud as Chief Product Officer. My book about online privacy and mass surveillance is almost finalized. The world needs Cloud solutions that enable users to have control over their data.
I’m joining Cozy Cloud as their Chief Product Officer.
It did not take me long to find a new very cool job. Cool, because it’s really aligned with my values. I suspect that most of my English readers haven’t heard about Cozy Cloud, so let me explain. In short, Cozy is a Free Libre Open Source piece of Software that runs on a personal server (such as a Rasbperry PI 2) and its goal is to offer a personal Cloud so that user can enjoy the benefits of the Cloud while retaining control of their data.
My role at Cozy Cloud will be to increase the number of users of the platform, engage with apps developers so that they build apps for the platform and also to find new contributors to the product.
Another cool side of this job is that the team is small, self-motivated and technically amazing. The energy they put into the project made me accept their offer. (They’re also very nice people).
My book (in French) on privacy and mass surveillance is almost done
What does it have to do with my new job? It’s simple: when writing the book, I thought about Information Systems that would Give Back Control to Users (in French, it becomes SIRCUS, which sounds a lot better than in English). Such systems must respect the 7 following principles:
- Open source software, so that we know what’s running and what’s happening to our data
- Server control, ideally with self-hosting
- Encryption, as the network cannot be trusted
- A sustainable business model (not based on targeted advertising, as it encourages services to profile users and gather as much personal data as possible)
- Great UX. (Worth repeating)
- Standards-based and inter-operable
- Unique value proposal for the user that differentiate the offer from centralized silos.
This one looks like a mystery until you study what Cozy is working on. The fact that users control the server enables completely new ways of using personal data. One can imagine mashing up phone bills details with an address book. Instead of having a long list of numbers called, we would get a list of names. This is just an example, but tons of other use cases can be imagined around electricity bills, bank statements, quantified self data and such…
The world needs cloud services that respect users
It became even more obvious when I was working on my book: centralizing personal data in huge silos in order to generate targeted advertising is not sustainable. As users, we’re trading our invaluable personal data against cheap service (Facebook costs roughly $5 a year per person). On top of that, centralizing data makes mass surveillance economically feasible. And we know how bad this can be.
This does not mean that we should all get rid of cloud services. They’re useful. We just should not have to trade all of our data to enjoy them.
In 2003, 13 years ago, I co-founded Mozilla Europe in order to launch Firefox because it was very clear that the Internet Explorer monopoly was killing the Web.
In 2015, it’s obvious that big proprietary cloud silos are a threat to our personal data and liberties. We need an alternative.
Is it reasonable, with a small startup to decide to challenge the Google, Facebook and other huge services? No it’s not. But it’s tempting and we could succeed. IT’s just like in 2003 when I told people around me that a non-profit with a handful of employees was going after the 95% market share of Internet Explorer by giving away open source software. It worked.
I’m walking in Oscar Wilde’s footstep in this respect:
Wisdom is to have dreams big enough not to lose sight when we pursue them.