Privacy Pledge signatories dream of alternative internet

A group of 12 organizations have come together to lay the foundations for what they call the “alternative internet” to the internet controlled by big tech, and a set of principles for building a privacy-centric internet for the greater good sketched.

The Privacy Pledge has been signed by various well-known developers of privacy-centric services, including web browser operators Brave and the Tor project, mobile search and web browser Neeva, and secure email solutions Proton and Tutanota.

The group says the five key principles embodied in the Privacy Pledge, which do not endorse or reflect any specific public policy or technological tool, will serve as a starting point for returning the Internet to its creators’ original vision – that of an open, democratic and private platform that allows for the free sharing of information, open communication, and individual privacy, in contrast to the regressive attitudes of big tech and surveillance capitalism.

The action comes as a growing wave of ordinary web users are deviating from services controlled by Google and Meta, and governments around the world are considering passing tougher online privacy laws. Therefore, the signatories consider it important that the private sector takes the initiative to lead to a private internet.

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Andy Yen, Proton’s founder and CEO, said it is clear that the Internet is no longer functioning in the interests of ordinary users.

“What was once a ray of hope for the free exchange of information, the democratization of knowledge, has become a tool of the powerful. Huge corporations routinely monetize our personal lives while trying to sell us a false commitment to privacy. But there is another way,” he said.

“Companies like those who signed this pledge are proposing a private alternative to the status quo. By sticking to higher ideals, we believe we can set an example for other innovators and provide users with real privacy. By working together, we can give the internet back what it was meant to be.”

Sridhar Ramaswamy, CEO and co-founder of Neeva added: “For too long, Big Tech has exploited consumer data, abused market share, taxed small businesses and suppressed competition to remain the most powerful gatekeeper to our entire online experience. The “free” internet model comes at a high price; we pay for it with our attention and our privacy. Consumers deserve a wider choice of services that put user privacy first.”

“On today’s Internet, people sign their right to privacy by agreeing to unread terms and clicking away privacy warnings,” said Arne Möhle, CEO of Tutanota.

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“The reason for this is simple: we have learned that this is how the Internet works. We were trained to hate clicks. We were trained to hate reading terms. But Big Tech is using that stance against us. The internet we have today is fast, easy and the enemy of all things private. That’s why we, along with other privacy-first companies, created the Privacy Pledge. Because a better internet is possible.”

The five principles are formulated as follows:

  1. Above all, the Internet should be built to serve the people. That means it respects fundamental human rights, is accessible to all and enables the free flow of information. Companies should act in such a way that the needs of the users always come first.
  2. Organizations should only collect the data they need to prevent abuse and ensure the basic functioning of their services. You should get people’s consent to collect such data. People should also be able to easily find a clear explanation of what data is being collected, what is being done with it, where it is being stored, how long it will be stored and what they can do to have it deleted. To the extent that organizations need to collect information, they should adopt data management practices that put user privacy first.
  3. Whenever possible, people’s data should be securely encrypted in transit and at rest to prevent mass surveillance and reduce damage from hacks and data leaks.
  4. Online organizations should be transparent about their identity and software. They should clearly state who their leadership team is, where they are headquartered, and what jurisdiction they fall under. Your software should be open source wherever practical and open to audit by the security community.
  5. Web services should be interoperable unless interoperability requires unnecessary data collection or undermines secure encryption. This prevents the emergence of walled gardens and creates an open, competitive space that encourages innovation.
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The current list of signatories includes:

  • Brave.
  • Data rights activist, educator and subject of Netflix The big hackprofessor David Caroll.
  • Encrypted email service MailFence.
  • Tracker-free search engine Mojeek.
  • Neeva.
  • Open email platform provider Open-Xchange.
  • Digital rights non-profit organization OpenMedia.
  • Proton.
  • The Tor Project.
  • Secure chat application Threema.
  • Tutanota.
  • And the ad-free, privacy-centric search engine

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