FutureScot, 28 April, 2016 2 - Page 11

COVER STORY 28 April 2016 randomly distributed across all the users. “The cool thing about that is those locations where that data is stored is constantly changing so if you turn your computer off, people still need to access it, so the network copies it across to another node that it knows is online,” says Lambert. “So it’s making it even more secure, where in the centralised web it’s insecure because a lot of the time it’s not encrypted but it’s also not secure because the location stays the same and people generally know where to look.” The retrieval process is also more secure because the password needed to access data is locally stored: all you need is a PIN, a keyword and a password. The pin and the keyword locate your data on the network and then the keyword delivers it backs to your machine, where the password decrypts it. “The password never leaves your machine,” adds Lambert. “You never send your password to the network in the same way that you would with other services.” I ask whether MaidSafe will protect locally stored passwords, and Lambert accepts there is still an issue with keystroke logging software and ‘end-point security’; there are USB-type plug-in devices like Trezor, Lambert adds, but it is an issue they are alive to. ANOTHER potential problem with the software, which is similar to blockchain technology (in that it is a distributed network), but crucially different because it offers complete anonymity, is that it could be used for nefarious purposes, which makes it harder for the security services to stop criminality. While ideal for ordinary private citizens who want their digital footprint to remain private, it is not so great if you are GCHQ or the NSA. “I think this will present problems for security services,” adds Lambert. “But mass surveillance of data doesn’t actually get them anything. It’s been proven time and again that being able to read my emails and your emails doesn’t actually catch more terrorists. These events are so freak that nothing can predict them, so having this information is useless.” Lambert adds: “The other thing is that it also presents opportunities for government, which has its own difficulties trying to hide information.” Another interesting debate will be on the issue of rewards. The centralisation of Bitcoin through the growth in size of mining firms is at times detrimental to that network, Lambert “It’s a crazy thought. That’s why I like it. Skype itself was a pretty crazy project for a lot of people” Michael Jackson, MaidSafe adviser and former COO of Skype argues. “It’s something we are acutely aware of,” he adds. “There’s no point having a decentralised network only for it to become centralised again, so we’ve put a mechanism into the farming (end users are ‘farmers’ and developers are ‘builders’) algorithm whereby you earn a certain rate until you get to about 20% above the average. So let’s say the average amount of data stored on each node on the network is about 40GB; you will continue to earn up to about 50GB and then 20% above the average rate the earn- ing algorithm will flatten out, so you won’t earn any more.” It sounds like a neat solution to stop power accumulating at the top but again you can also argue that hard-coding a rule into the network is interference in the concept of the free market. MAIDSAFE IS a company that has generated an awful lot of interest among its user community; to raise the amount of money it did through a grassroots crowd-sale is quite staggering. But without the product being rolled out, it’s very hard to quantify what its impact on the market will be. We have all heard about attempts to disrupt existing business models, but to disrupt the entire internet seems like an impossible dream. When I catch up with Michael Jackson, who has moved on from Skype (he is now a partner of Luxembourg-based venture capitalist Mangrove Capital Partners), I’m keen to know whether MaidSafe is a horse worth backing. “It’s a crazy thought,” he says. “That’s why I like it. But Skype itself was a pretty crazy project for a lot of people. I was involved with that right from the beginning. We had all of these people saying, ‘You can’t do it’, ‘You won’t do it’, ‘Nobody will let you do it’. But in the end the proof was there; we FUTURESCOT 11 did manage to pull it off. And of course Skype had very few resources but it went on to make a pretty big impact.” On the practical side, Jackson, who stresses he is a friendly adviser (he has visited the company in Troon, describing their office as a bit like a “Nissen hut”), says the promise and philosophy of MaidSafe is great, but the onus is now on them to deliver. “For all the ideas, the proof is in the customers, or users, if you want to call them that.” “It’s a massive project; the idea of turning the privacy concept of the internet on its head is really quite ambitious. And it’ll take a very long time to be meaningful. So I think v