Kim Dotcom just broadcast a batshit spectacle live to the world from his mansion in New Zealand. Lofty ideas! Techno! A fake FBI raid! The gist: His new startup Mega isn’t just super-private file storage in the cloud. It’s a political statement about your privacy. Your data is yours and yours alone.
Dotcom was very clear: “Privacy is a basic human right,” he said. Now it’s time to find out if the world agrees.
The underlying thinking behind Dotcom’s statement—and his business model—is that governments and large corporations around the world are using existing copyright laws and other excuses to take away your right to your data online. “It’s about the human need for refuge from the community,” he told his audience. We’re allowed to have secrets.
His answer to the encroaching powers that be is encryption. He thinks that Mega—billed as “The Privacy Company”—is the future of the way we use the Internet. Beyond the current storage offering, Mega will be an encryption platform that third-party applications can use to keep their users safe from the prying eyes. Details beyond the existence of an SDK and API are still scant, but the concept is there. Third party apps aren’t a new thing. A privacy platform is.
And of the message? The whole show was techno theater just as much as it was a keynote. It was stilted and awkward. Dotcom is an icon, yes, but he’s big, strange icon. His ideas skew to the wackier side of what the mainstream is probably willing to accept. People like to complain about the occasional government overreach, but might have a hard time believing in a government conspiracy to quash your freedom by harvesting your data.
Dotcom definitely has a point, your private info is up for grabs, and more and more is being taken from you every day. There’s a lot of evidence that he’s right that people want an open, free, and private Internet enough to fight for it. A year ago, the Internet launched a movement that killed SOPA, and the outcry over the raid on Dotcom’s home and Megaupload servers around the world was tremendous.
But for all the lofty talk, the only tangible thing we’ve got to go on is the platform as Dotcom has built it so far. Mega’s encryption model is smart, but who knows if it will create the sea change Mr. Kim envisions.
On one hand, Dotcom sounds like a paranoid, opportunistic man whose home was raided a year ago. On the other, he sounds like any other ordinary citizen who wants some space all his own.