Privacy-By-Design means Care

Learn how technical and design-related decisions can bring a new level of Care to your work in digital space. How can the users regain control over their data?

Welcome to my second introductory post about PrivMX! If you want a more complete picture, start with the first post, and then continue here. This article (and the following one) sum up the most important assumptions we’ve made while designing the PrivMX software.

Logic and data on the client-side...

As a software, PrivMX has had many forms. It started many years ago as a simple editor for client-side encrypted text notes. We created this app within our own software house, because we simply wanted to keep some passwords and other data safe. Then we decided to add more functions and soon it developed into a programming library for creating more advanced client-side encrypted business software. The lib served us very well in a few applications we made for our clients, and then, yet another decision was made - PrivMX became a brand and technical basis for a decentralized, alternative, encrypted mail system. As PrivMX WebMail deserves its own blog post, let me now end this story at this point.

The internal, technical concept of PrivMX hasn’t been changing that much over the years. Since the very beginning, it has always been a client-server construction, created from scratch as a client-side-encryption and zero-knowledge-server system (if you feel like diving into these terms, we invite you to take a look at the PrivMX Spec). This core technical assumption has several interesting software-design consequences, but the main one relates to following the central PrivMX software design guideline – that is taking special Care of all user data.

...in users’ hands

Client-side encryption means that only end users (Team Members) have full control over keys required to decrypt and read their data. System (Team Server) provider and administrator don’t have access to them, and in consequence, can’t read users’ content, have zero knowledge. We think that this is the best way of ensuring the privacy of teams, and PrivMX introduces this approach on all levels for all digital tools it offers – by design.

Such Privacy-By-Design approach makes a real difference. You come to appreciate it later, in the middle of intensive work online with your team, when bright new ideas suddenly appear in your notes and plans. When you want to store and share internally some sensitive team’s data, passwords, customers’ personal information. When your online disscusion with some of your team members turns out to be „for your eyes only”. Then you really feel happy that you chose the right tool for your team’s digital workspace. It’s worth to care for such things in such a world.

By the way, your personal computer is another thing you have in your hands, literally. At PrivMX, we haven’t seen this obvious fact clearly enough for a long time. Our minds have been saturated with popular cloud-and-web thinking, where physical end user devices are second-class citizens. But, actually, our computers are the only parts of today's digital workspace we can personally and physically control and take care of. Moreover, those devices are THE tools we actually use to do our work. I plan to explore this (not that obvious) topic in a future post, but now I just have to add that for some time, we’ve been designing our software to seize capabilities of the physical devices and operating systems. It makes a difference, too, not only because of privacy concerns.

To sum up the above, I can safely say that PrivMX is one of the first real-world collaboration software solutions based on the Privacy-By-Design idea. Privacy, however, is not the only aspect worth to care for in the digital workspace. Starting new projects and creating new teams in the age of (often mandatory) online work requires special tools to be as natural and effective as possible. PrivMX „Tools x Sections” architecture is the second most important element of our proposition of a contemporary, human-oriented digital workspace. I invite you to read the next post where I write more about it.


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Matt Muszytowski
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