Tony Edwards

Privacy, Data and Democracy – (not so) Live blog - Aral Balkan

- 5 mins

Aral Balkan is the founder and lead designer of, a social enterprise creating independent alternatives to Spyware 2.0.

Aral’s work protects fundamental freedoms, human rights, and democracy by creating independent consumer technologies that don’t spy on you.

Privacy, Data, Democracy

85 of the richest people have the same wealth as the worlds poorest 3.5 billion people combined.

85 people would fit onto one double decker bus. Its hard to visualise 3.5billion people. This is an indication of systemic inequality, an unsustainable model of the world.

What should these 85 people do? Build large walls around themselves and to keep an eye of those 3.5 billion people. Were used to the idea of a magical guy on a cloud keeping watch over us, but that cloud has become a server farm in recent years. The new magical guy is not quite as impressive.

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There is no cloud, only others computers.

What is it were farming in the server farms. US. We are the product that these companies sell. In the past when people were sold we called it slavery. We need to ask ‘what do we call the business that sells everything about you that apart from your body’?

Why aren’t these things regulated. The people who make the rules are acting like cheerleaders. The current head of EU digital agenda likened people who care about net neutrality to the Taliban.

Co regulation is the current model, where companies are asked how they want to be regulated. Is this really fair? Is it corruption? Not in the traditional sense, but instead an economy of influence. Were seeing the transition of power from governments to corporations (TTIP). Companies can sue governments if they go against them in favour of their people. Is this the end of democracy and the start of corpocracy?


The problem isn’t difficult, nor is the solution. Solutions fail because the wrong problem is trying to solved.

Stronger democracy is the answer. Iceland has the Pirate party as number 1 party.

Technology is not the solution whilst unbridled capitalism is the driver of democracy. Technology needs to switch from the butler model to an extension of the self. This would change the boundaries of our selves, leading to a more conscious decision about what we share with the world. We extend our bodies through technology, perhaps we should extend personal privacy to the digital world.

We should own and control ourselves in all forms. We shape our tools, then they shape us.

Design today

Silicon valley design is awesome in the now, and empowers us. The cost is that companies know what were doing but the true cost is the erosion of our civil liberties into the future.

Decoration perpetuate that status quo wheras design changes the status quo

Is there a difference between addicts and users, the model that large tech users. Only software and drug dealers call their customers users!

Open source is there to protect freedoms, but not every one understands software (from a user point of view), which limits the potential to protect. We can do better, by moving away from tickle down technology to ethical design.

Design for people not users, but there is a cost. Ethical design is an analogy for Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

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The three R’s of ethic design all lead back to respects human rights. If there isn’t that respect were are not building tools for people, instead on the back of people.

We need to move beyond the cloud. The web is centralised around large data centres (Google / Facebook). We need a topology without these centres to promote equality.

On Facebook, if you want to share a picture with your friend you need to share it with Facebook so


Aral build heartbeat to address these problems, allowing users to share without signing life away.

Heartbeat is a messaging application in pre alpha phase.

The UI is demoed through audio description. You really can get a sense of how the interface works through the voice guide with our eyes closed.

We need to stop thinking beyond our own perspective to open up technology to a wider audience. Aral chose apple as a platform because of the awesome accessibility. This is a greater issue than building new toys.

Messages are synced between devices and not stored elsewhere. Conversations are private, going directly between devices.

But its not being a hermit, there are public posts, but the point being that you can choose what to share. Public posts are aggregated into a personal website accessable on the web.

The aim is to get the software entirely within the commons licence.

This has been funded by Aral selling his flat and some croud sourcing. The total cost is less than the cost of one engineers.

Move beyond bullshit

We need to move beyond venture capital to fund software, as they are only interested in the exit, which often is selling future users data. This is the silicon valley model. This is the VC model.

Move beyond centralisation when we make things. Move beyond privilege. Move beyond inequality.

We planted a BS seed which has grown into a BS tree, with BS fruit. The fruit wont change by decorating or pruning the tree.

By creating a model based on wholesome principles we will have wholesome fruit. Only then will people join the wholesome tree, but the structure must be there first. This will take a few people to build with reason, equalities, human right and sustainability as a priority.

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