AWS Loft – Skopenow and Privacy

Code Happy

NYC AWS Pop-up Loft Pitch Event

Yesterday I had the pleasure of visiting Amazons Pop-up loft in SoHo, and listen to five startups pitch their ideas to a crowd of fellow engineers, entrepreneurs and VC investors. Each presentation had something unique to offer and many triggered interest from the crowd, but one of them in particular stood out.

Only one of them made me forget I was standing, forget my surroundings and get lost in the swirl of ideas and possibilities. It was Skopenow, a service which crawls the internet to compile profiles for people. Ultimately generating a report which is someones digital identity. They interestingly avoid the stickypoints of privacy litigation by not storing data themselves and instead aggregating it live from other companies and services.

Presenter from Skopenow talking to audience

It’s cool, but is it acceptable?

As much as I love the idea of it – I love the intelligence and digital sleuthing that can connect a public key to your real name somewhere else, it’s all cool – but it’s also terrifying. Sure it’s a fun toy, let’s do it to other people, but not to me. Not to us. All of the convenience of google mail connecting to our calendar on our phone. The dates and geotags on images uploaded to Facebook, all of these conveniences make our lives easier, but they also make it possible for Skopenow to answer a query like “Find a picture of Donato Borrello drinking at Barcade in September.”

Does this really matter? How can we protect ourselves from this? How can we live a social life without fearing our teenage digital melodramas will follow us the rest of our adult lives? How can I stay in touch with my friends without being part of an ecosystem like Facebook or Google which permeates everything from the websites I visit to my cell phone I carry?

I don’t know yet, but privacy is an interesting market and, as a consumer, I would be willing to pay for it.

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