For those worried about potential snooping by the US National Security Agency and other government surveillance schemes, Opera co-founder Jon von Tetzchner wants to provide “a safer alternative” type of social media with his startup Vivaldi.
Established in November 2013, Vivaldi.net offers forums, blogs, email, photo sharing and instant messaging platforms, but sets itself apart from providers of similar services by offering data encryption and a guarantee to not scan the content of emails to sell targeted web advertising, the latter being a practice employed by Google’s Gmail service.
“Our initial focus is on the computer geeks because they usually have higher demands for functionality, safety and privacy,” von Tetzchner told Reuters. “But a lot of ordinary people also worry about these things and we will welcome everyone.”
von Tetzchner left Opera Software in 2011 and in the time since then the firm has decided to close its own social network, My Opera, as of 1 March 2014. It is something Vivaldi.net hopes to capitalise on as it offers users a safe location to store documents.
“There has been a lot of focus on safety lately, and it has mainly been focused on governments. But this is just as much an issue for the companies in this business,” said von Tetzchner, adding that his organisation offers a way for individuals to store data away from the prying eyes of big business and government.
“As a society I feel that we should be more focused on limiting the massive surveillance we all are under from governments and from companies that use people’s private information for advertising purposes.”
While von Tetzchner admitted that it is tough to promise that the government will be kept at bay, he believes Vivaldi.net offers a strong possibility of doing so, especially given its location.
“I don’t think anyone can guarantee to keep NSA away, so I won’t make that promise,” he said. “But we are without a doubt a safer alternative than anyone else out there. This is one of the reasons we have chosen to do it from Iceland.”
Iceland is renowned for strong laws regarding free speech and consumer protection, both of which von Tetzchner hope will help keep data stored in his startup safe. In addition to that, the country’s climate makes it an ideal spot to provide datacentres at a low cost, thanks to the natural cooling offered by the wind and cheap power through geothermal energy.