Last year, John Oliver hosted a private (and ultimately hilarious) interview with Edward Snowden in which they spoke about cyber security. As Snowden rattled on about all the private information the government has access to, Oliver's eyes glazed over. "Nobody cares," the comedian jokingly said, to raucous applause.
Snowden, of course, is the former CIA employee who copied and leaked classified information from the NSA in 2013 without prior authorization. Illegal, yes, but he revealed just how much the government was surveying its own people and people around the world. It started a huge debate, and the online privacy industry has steadily grown ever since. Once we knew about the problem, we sure as hell wanted it fixed...
...and Mark Cuban and Ryan Ozonian are on the case.
You know Cuban of "Shark Tank" and Dallas Mavericks fame, of course. Ozonian perhaps doesn't ring a bell, but you should commit his name to memory nevertheless. He's the guy that snagged an investment from Cuban by writing a well-crafted email back in 2012 about his gaming startup, Mention Mobile. A few years later, the two partnered once again to create the new privacy app Cyber Dust, a venture that made Ryan a 2016 Consumer Tech Forbes Under 30 Honoree. You can actually catch Ryan speaking at the Forbes Under 30 Summit taking place October 16-19 this year in Boston.
So, what is Cyber Dust, and why does it matter? It's an app that allows users to send encrypted, private text messages that completely disappear after they're read. Simple in concept but difficult in execution.
You might be thinking, that sounds like Snapchat, right? Yes, but no. Unlike Snapchat, whose temporary messages are vulnerable to screenshots, Cyber Dust's messages are protected from screenshots. Plus they are heavily encrypted and never land on anyone's hard drive -- including Cyber Dust's own hard drive -- meaning that after you send a message, it disappears, and disappears for good.
Why is this important? Well, if Snowden has taught us anything, if Wikileaks taught us anything, if the celebrity iCloud hack has taught us anything -- it's that our private communication doesn't always stay private. And in many cases, it doesn't even start out as private. In an age where everything is saved somewhere, true privacy, truly ephemeral communication in the digital age, is hard to come by.
Lack of privacy has become a major part of our culture. The simple concept of true privacy even has a built-in attack. "Why are you afraid? Are you hiding something?" is a common rebuttal when discussing digital privacy. With celebrities, politicians, businesses, and countless others getting hacked and losing their privacy with regularity, it's a genuine concern.
Think of the leaked private e-mails that led to Amy Pascal's firing at Sony. Then think of any number of e-mails you've sent to friends or colleagues that included confidential information -- even just private complaints about a mutual acquaintance. Out of context, or perhaps even in context, those messages could ruin your career and provide undue embarrassment to you, your family, and everyone involved.
With Cyber Dust, your private conversations truly are private. In fact, later this year, Cyber Dust will roll out an even more advanced product, simply called "Dust."
Dust is the only messenger where you can erase your messages from the recipient's phone. Think about the applications: co-workers, lovers, friends, partners in crime, or anyone else you want to have private conversations with -- no longer do you have to worry about some message sitting on someone's phone for five years that could come back to haunt you.
With Dust, you can "dust" your message causing it to instantly disappear from both your phone and the recipient's phone. In an age where digital privacy has been something of a fantasy, that's worth something.