Civil Liberties

Encrypted Social Network 'Minds' Will Protect User Data From Government and Corporate Snoops

Minds excels where other popular social networks, particularly Facebook, fail: transparency and protecting user privacy.


"Regain control of your social world," advertises the homepage of new, privacy-oriented social-media platform Minds excels where other popular social networks, particularly Facebook, fail: protecting user privacy and not using or selling your personal information. The site does not collect user data at all and offers end-to-end encrypted messaging, pseudonymous accounts, Bitcoin wallet services, and a system that rewards users for their activity on the site. 

"For every mobile vote, comment, remind, swipe and upload you earn points which can be exchanged for views on posts of your choice," the Minds website explains.

Minds offers some features familiar to Facebook users, such as the ability to post photos, videos, and status updates, to start or join groups, and to chat with friends. Users have a personal profile page, or "wall," and a Newsfeed, where they can see the updates of people they follow. But unlike Facebook, which relies on mysterious algorithms to determine who sees what, Minds guarantees users that all of their posts will go out to all of their followers. Facebook, notes Venture Beat's Barry Levine, "has aggravated the hell out of marketers by tightening its News Feed algorithm so much that posts get through to relatively few of your fans—unless you pay for boosts."

Minds is also powered by open-source software, which anyone can adapt to create their own social network. "We are a free and open-source platform to launch your digital brand, social network and mobile app," states the website. "We are also a social network ourselves. It is a global social network of social networks."

Bill Ottman, the company's chief executive, stressed to CNet the importance of its 'peer reviewed' code to privacy. "People with programming skills can look over the code to make sure no one can access data on the service who shouldn't," notes CNet's Laura Hautala. Ottoman pointed out that "a lot of companies will claim privacy and say they're encrypted. But it's not real encryption because we have no way of inspecting the code to see if there are backdoors." (Requiring tech services to provide government-accessible "backdoors" to user data is a popular plan in Washington right now.)

The fact that Minds doesn't collect user data also prevents a situation where intelligence agencies could demand that they turn it over. "We can't give it to them," Ottman told CNet, "because we don't have it ourselves."

Wired UK and other outlets are reporting that hacker collective Anonymous has endorsed Minds and called on people to help build up the new network. But it's unclear if the call to action, posted by the Anonymous ART of Revolution Facebook group, is a legit Anonymous effort (whatever that means) or not. Here's the message the group posted:

Anonymous ART of Revolution/Facebook

Yesterday, J.D. Tuccille blogged here about ProtonMail, a free, browser-based, encrypted email service he descirbes as "pretty much like using Gmail, but minus the likelihood of being snooped on by marketing types, intelligence snoops, or asshole federal prosecutors."