2022.04.01

People First Privacy in Modern Communications

We believe that users shouldn’t have to sacrifice privacy to communicate freely, and we’re building fundamentally new technologies to make that a reality.

Vision

We are Our Data

Everything we do online leaves a trace. Whether it’s a log stored by a web service, or a record of a chat with a friend. In recent decades, the value of data and metadata has given rise to an entire economy. Billions of people use “free” services on the Internet without putting much thought into how and why those services do not charge for use. Our lives are our data. And our metadata – data about our data – is like a window directly into our lives. With enough metadata, of which there is a lot, someone can know nearly everything about us.

Our Data is Valuable

Some of the richest corporations in human history know the value of such information: their fortunes are built on it. Where we go, what we do, who we talk to, what we believe, and when we do the most basic things: none escapes observation today. Some companies hoard this data for their own use. Others, such as data brokers, have created marketplaces in which they buy and sell, aggregate and slice our data for their gain. Likewise, oppressive governments have seized on available communications data and metadata to surveil and censor entire populations.

What We Believe at INVISV

We believe people should control their data and metadata, and reveal only what they choose, no matter what technology they use. INVISV builds systems, spanning the network stack, that provide privacy without affecting the usefulness and usability that users expect. In our designs, we focus on privacy for data in flight. INVISV’s goal is to achieve privacy by default by making it easy to integrate our new technology into applications and systems people use every day. We all deserve what modern technology can offer and shouldn’t have to pay for it with our privacy.

In this and future posts, we’ll share more about the privacy-preserving technologies that are foundational to INVISV, and announce new services that we are launching to enable privacy where it was never before an option.

We believe that the freedom to speak one’s mind was key to the Internet becoming the transformative force that it is today. We’ve been working on privacy and security in many contexts for a long time, and believe that it’s what will preserve that freedom long into the future.

How It Works

Privacy is a Layered Problem

Communications is typically abstracted into layers. Physical connectivity such as WiFi or 5G or Ethernet is the base layer. Connectivity between hosts on a local network is the next layer up; above that is IP connectivity across networks, then reliable transport of data streams, and then finally applications.

Privacy problems exist at all layers, so solutions must also be layered. For example, encrypting application traffic can provide confidentiality of message content, yet observers of lower and higher layers can readily see who is talking to who. At INVISV, we are building privacy tech across multiple layers to address the leakage built into common technologies we use today.

Privacy At Rest vs. Privacy in Flight

As users have come to understand and demand privacy, governments and companies have begun to respond. There’s been some progress made in the last few years, with new privacy regulations and new privacy tools. But to date these efforts mostly address privacy of data at rest: when it’s stored somewhere. Beyond simple encryption, little is being done for user privacy in flight: when user data, and people themselves, are moving from one place to another. We believe the edges of communications are as important as the nodes.

INVISV’s approach: the Decoupling Principle

In our decades of experience in network privacy and security, we have repeatedly come to apply a principle that is as simple as it is practical to improve communications privacy: decoupling a user’s multiple identifiers and the means of communications itself. Often, this entails decoupling access from authentication and sources from destinations.

User privacy is violated by service providers that connect multiple user-specific identifiers together, identifiers that are supposed to be used for different things (such as connectivity in a network vs. authenticating to that network). Due to the complexity of network protocols and stacks and new emerging use cases, there are always new identifiers being invented and used in practice, unbeknownst to users, but these identifiers often serve some purpose. Our approach is to build privacy-preserving services that decouple identifiers and work to thwart ubiquitous tracking. In future posts we’ll dive into the details of how this works in practice, and how we’re using it to secure mobile phone service, DNS, end-to-end communication on the Internet, and the applications we all use.

What’s Next

In the coming weeks and months we’ll be launching new privacy-preserving services built upon these concepts and guided by our vision of people first privacy. We’ll also be writing about the technology we’ve built to make this possible, and where we see people first privacy going in the future. We hope you’ll join us.

– Paul and Barath

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