Mark Cuban has been making big waves the last few days in pumping up the Cyber Dust app that he's backed. I love that someone of his status is pushing the idea of thinking before you tweet and making sure people realize that what they share digitally is out of your control the second you press "send."
I've long told people that even if it's an email, a text message, anything you've put into electronic form, you had better be sure it's something you don't mind the entire world knowing about. In most cases, that isn't an issue. You just don't know when you'll get that one case that will be an issue.
"The minute you hit 'send,' you lose ownership of that text," Cuban says in the video. YES. Absolutely.
Having known many people in the space (I briefly consulted with the Glimpse Labs startup founded by Elissa Shevinsky, now JeKuDo Privacy Company) and more than a passing interest in the topic of online privacy, I eagerly watched his video, only to come away more than slightly annoyed.
Why? Glad you asked. I'll share a few of the top reasons.
1) Cyber Dust promises you that the messages you send on its service are not saved ANYwhere.
Not possible. Sorry. That's not how computers work. In order to send the message, it has to be on some server for even a short amount of time. And it's on the device of the person you sent it to. And you can even pin messages you send, to your own device. How can you pin a message that self-destructs in 30 seconds?
As such, we also temporarily collect, process and store the contents of your messages which are temporarily stored on the devices of recipients.
2) Cuban says Cyber Dust doesn't store user information.
We collect usage Information, including time, date, sender and recipient of message, the number of messages sent and received, and the amount of time you spend on Cyber Dust. We collect information about your use of our websites, including your browser type and language, access times, pages viewed, your IP address and the website you visited before navigating to our websites.
3) Cyber Dust promises its messages are "fully encrypted."
What does that mean? Even as someone who is not an expert in encryption and cyber security, I know that "fully encrypted" can mean a lot of things. I turned to Shevinsky for her take on that promise because this is something she's spent far more time studying than I have.
"I need to see more specific details--like the kind of encryption, or ideally open sourced code--before trusting my data or being comfortable recommending Cyber Dust," Shevinsky said.
Sadly, I know that a lot of people hear "open source" and think, "Oh! That wouldn't be secure if the code were open sourced." But that simply means that person doesn't understand open sourced code and encryption.
Companies such as Secret Circle and Wickr are completely transparent about how they encrypt and what security precautions they take. (Disclosure: In researching Wickr, I noted that Inc. is among the companies that uses the platform.)
4) Cyber Dust absolves itself of any responsibility if a message is not removed or deleted.
While we are not responsible or liable for the removal or deletion of (or the failure to remove or delete) any of your messages, your messages are encrypted and deleted from our servers within 100 seconds of a message recipient logging on to the application and opening the message ... We cannot guarantee that deletion always occurs within a particular time frame, nor can we prevent others from taking screenshots of your messages.
Fair enough--Cyber Dust does note that if you're looking for airtight security, they're not your app: "You should not use Cyber Dust if you require a guarantee that the recipient cannot copy your message by taking a screenshot."
But that's buried at the end of the second paragraph on item 3 on their privacy page.
5) Cuban implies he wrote the app.
Now, I know that Cuban is a really smart guy. And he once was a software developer. But I did not know he was a coder. I'm actually being too kind here, because he doesn't really imply it inasmuch as he says, "That's exactly why I have two apps that I wrote."
6) Teens actually are pretty aware of the dangers of texts.
Snapchat wouldn't have become the most popular app in their demographic if teens didn't see the need for privacy and security. Not to say Snapchat hasn't had its issues about not being as private as promised. But teens are probably more conscious of the dangers of texting than they are about privacy on Facebook, Twitter or other social media platforms.
7) You shouldn't go back and delete all your social media posts for no reason.
"You need to be going back and deleting all your tweets after a certain period of time. Deleting all your retweets after a certain period of time," he says in the video. "Unfollowing people that you think could send the wrong message even though you don't know what that message could be construed as in the future."
In my humble opinion, this is nothing more than fear-mongering. There's no reason to delete them--in fact, if you haven't deleted them, you have actual evidence of the context of a tweet. If you delete them and someone has a screenshot and doctors it, you have no way of proving it's doctored.
People serious about their privacy aren't going to bother with Cyber Dust with other, much more secure options out there.
I do truly believe Cuban's heart is in the right place (and he recognizes the financial gain to be had from investing in online privacy, of course).
"When it comes to privacy apps, the most important thing is trust. I trust Signal, I trust Silent Circle--both of these companies are going out of their way to be transparent," Shevinsky said. "I do believe that Mark Cuban is genuine about privacy, but I don't trust that we're getting all the information that we need to trust our sensitive data to his application."
That's the point, in the end. If you're promising privacy and encryption and security, you need to be able to back it up.
So, Mark Cuban: You may be right about the need for privacy and security online. But you're wrong in how you're going about it.