While communication is seemingly easier than ever, messenger apps are notoriously troublesome when it comes to privacy and security. Thankfully, the wanton collection of users’ private information could be drastically reduced this year with the introduction of the blockchain-based communication network, TOP Network. Steve Wei, CEO of Top Network took some time to speak with Forbes.com about how TOP Network is taking messaging to a new level.
Vulnerabilities and Privacy Violations
The absence of a secure and full-featured communications network is a massive problem. It is a breach of privacy and trust for giant companies to unapologetically track and access user information. This blatant disrespect of users, combined with the unsettling feeling of being surveilled is not in alignment with cultivating a healthy society.
Sadly, the most popular messengers are some of the worst offenders. Despite its attempts to convince the public that it isn’t crossing any lines, Facebook Messenger should be a last resort messaging app. Not only can Facebook Messenger chat logs be viewed with any governmental warrant, Facebook Messenger is notoriously aggressive when it comes to collecting and exploiting user data. As stated by Forbes contributor, Kalev Leetaru,
“When even privacy researchers aren’t fully aware of how Facebook is tracking them and the well-known tricks used by governments and companies alike to outsource their surveillance needs to the company, perhaps there is merit to the criticism that Facebook needs to do a vastly better job at educating its users how it is using their data.”
WeChat, a communication and payment app that has 980 million users, has come under fire for inadequate privacy and security concerns. The app is hugely popular in China, but it is censored and data can be shared or leaked. As such, Australian military personnel have been prohibited from using the app due to privacy concerns, reported the South China Morning Post.
Theoretically, dissatisfaction with a communication app could be solved be ceasing use of it and switching to an encrypted messenger like Telegram or Whatsapp, which many have done. However, Telegram has some security issues with group chats, and Whatsapp has recently been taken under the big-brotherly wing of Facebook, raising concerns. Whatsapp also has the vulnerability inherent with centralized storage of user data.
Something Better is on the Way
Meet Steve and TOP Network. Steve is the creator of the first encrypted messenger app, CoverMe. He and the TOP Network team are on track to release TOP Messenger this year, a messaging service that will allow for complete anonymity in communications. The company states its core values as “decentralization, low cost, security, privacy protection and interoperability.”
The Telos Protocol or TOP Network is a blockchain-powered communication network that utilizes decentralization to ensure that user messages and data can’t be accessed by third parties. In addition to messaging, the whitepaper states that “VoIP, video, streaming, VPN, CDN, IoT data sharing, storage and more” will be available on the network.
Steve’s many years in the communications field have taught him valuable lessons and made him acutely aware of the downsides of existing messenger apps, including CoverMe. He discussed some of the ways TOP Network will improve on CoverMe and SkyVPN.
Steve explained that with CoverMe, user messages are end-to-end encrypted and thus not accessible by a third party. While this is already better than Facebook Messenger, it’s still not ideal. For instance, he explained that when the company gets FBI subpoenas for messages, they literally can’t provide them. However, IP address and login information can be accessed. TOP Network eliminates access to all user information, making it a unique and invaluable way to communicate.
Decentralization is a significant component of the project. CoverMe currently has a centralized user database, which makes it vulnerable to hacking. TOP Network is decentralized, thereby protecting user data.
Decentralization also will improve VPN services, according to Steve. The more servers there are, the more difficult it is to block the IP address. In contrast, if all activity goes through a central server, it is easy to identify and block, ultimately disrupting the user experience.
Open Source for the Win
Another important lesson Steve has learned from his years of experience in communication networking is the value of being open source. Steve told Forbes.com that Telegram became more popular than CoverMe because it was open source while CoverME was not.
Making a Grand Entrance
TOP Network will hit the ground running….