Microsoft developing a mobile social network that minimizes privacy concerns

Microsoft is developing a mobile social network that aims to address the ever increasing criticism heaped upon the presently popular and profitable Facebook model of privacy. According to Technology Review, Researchers at Microsoft Research Silicon Valley are developing a mobile network that enables users to share media without sharing that information with the central server. When you upload data, it gets encrypted and given a lost of people that are able to access that data. Those people can then decrypt and view the data. Iqbal Mohomed, a researcher involved in the project, explains why this protects privacy. "With Contrail, the central location doesn't ever know my information, or what particular users care about--it just sees encrypted stuff to pass on." Contrail also requires you to opt-in to receive updates from friends. Unlike Facebook, which sends you everything unless you opt out, Contrail will actively engage the user in privacy management from the very beginning. When only you can decide what content is pushed down to your account, managing your social connections becomes a lot easier.

Contrail is a mobile network that will run on the Windows Azure cloud computing platform, and it will be focused on the smartphone experience. Data is sent directly to devices, and your phone doesn't simply act as a portal to an account in the cloud, like the Facebook app for smartphones. The account and the data resides on your phone. Your social connections are all mobile phones, and unique encryption keys for encrypting and decrypting data are stored on the phone, locally.

In a lot of ways, Contrail seems like a user-friendly version of Diaspora*, the grass-roots social network that raised a significant amount of money to start a network that hides information from central servers by having users set up privately hosted file servers that connect to other servers via the Diaspora* network. Both platforms feature a centralized system that doesn't see incoming or outgoing data, and both depend on local storage. The biggest difference is the mobile aspect of Contrail, which obviates the need for technical ability as far as setting up a web server goes. It will definitely be interesting to see how the dynamic unfolds between those two.

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NO! NO! NO! NO!......NO Microsoft. Do not even attempt to put together something else until you make sure your current products are fully working. I think we are all getting tired of you all creating applications that work for a moment and then continue to stay full of bugs.

JSYOUNG571 said,
NO! NO! NO! NO!......NO Microsoft. Do not even attempt to put together something else until you make sure your current products are fully working. I think we are all getting tired of you all creating applications that work for a moment and then continue to stay full of bugs.

Ah, the Perfectionist Deadlock Syndrome. You must be that kind of worker who finishes less because you spend so much time on a task just to make it 101% perfect -- when you can finish more even if they are 95% acceptably perfect.

NO! NO! NO! NO!......NO Blizzard. Do not even attempt to put Starcraft II together until you make sure Starcraft I fully working and fully balanced!!!! ZOMGORZZZZZZZZZZZZZ!11111111111111

lordcanti86 said,
Except the vast majority of people on social networks don't care about their privacy (at least until it's violated)

No. Not until they realize it has been violated For some, there's quite a gap.

lordcanti86 said,
Except the vast majority of people on social networks don't care about their privacy (at least until it's violated)

Agreed. If people cared they wouldn't make everything public like they do.

lordcanti86 said,
Except the vast majority of people on social networks don't care about their privacy (at least until it's violated)

Very true. Part of an advertising campaign for this would have to educate people on the fundamentals of privacy.

Jase said,
Bit late to that.. Facebook & foursquare own the mobile social networking.

I agree. Although Google Buzz didn't fare well, I don't think it was because of Buzz' privacy debacle, but simply because FB is too big by now. MS need to do something incredible for this to take off. It's not enough to be better on privacy than Facebook, that's for sure. It's not enough to use a massive ad campaign either, I think.

Jase said,
Bit late to that.. Facebook & foursquare own the mobile social networking.

they might @ the moment but not everyone is guaranteed to stay on top forever...

Jase said,
Bit late to that.. Facebook & foursquare own the mobile social networking.

True, at the moment they do. But, who's to say what Microsoft would do with this technology. They could even license it to other social networking sites, or something like that. And since Microsoft has a stake in Facebook, I don't know that they're interested so much in competing with it per se...

Jase said,
Bit late to that.. Facebook & foursquare own the mobile social networking.

What's with people always saying companies are "late" to stuff? I didn't realize that was how technology worked. I didn't realize that the first company to successfully do something would be the only company to ever succeed at it.

I mean, that's why Sony utterly failed to ever launch a successful console to marginalize the far more successful Nintendo's N64. And why Europe and Japan never had any luck with the automobile market that Ford beat them all to. And why Internet Explorer was laughed out of a Silicon Valley that never needed anything other than Netscape. And why nobody switched to Facebook when Myspace was already widely in use. And why World of Warcraft had no chance at making a profit when Everquest already had a solid userbase. And why...

...oh, sorry, this must be boring, me going on and on like this. My bad.

I was just thinking I was reading that....sounds just like Diaspora! Very interesting. Hopefully MSFT are looking at the bigger picture rather than just a Facebook compete ... i.e. A secure place to store all your data rather than over loads of different web services.

jamiet said,
I was just thinking I was reading that....sounds just like Diaspora! Very interesting. Hopefully MSFT are looking at the bigger picture rather than just a Facebook compete ... i.e. A secure place to store all your data rather than over loads of different web services.

Yeah, since Microsoft has a stake in Facebook, perhaps they're looking at fixing their privacy issues... This sounds very promising...

Very nice. Seems like it'd be tough to include a back-door - unless the back door users are automatically authorized to view everything.

If I were the NSA and wanted to spy on everyone legally, I'd start a front company and call it something approachable - like "Google", then just look through the content that the people willfully handed over to me to peruse.

Neb Okla said,
Very nice. Seems like it'd be tough to include a back-door - unless the back door users are automatically authorized to view everything.

If I were the NSA and wanted to spy on everyone legally, I'd start a front company and call it something approachable - like "Google", then just look through the content that the people willfully handed over to me to peruse.

If its warm where you are, you must be cookin under that tin foil hat

Deathray said,
Too bad it's just for the mobile community

why too bad? arent we all a part of the mobile community? and if not wont u be soon..thats where things are naturally moving...

tegument said,

why too bad? arent we all a part of the mobile community? and if not wont u be soon..thats where things are naturally moving...

+1 and in reality, mobile makes more sense for something like this anyway because of the inherent privacy concerns created by mobile social networking and browsing...

Tanoru said,
I hope it's something new and not like Google Buzz.

Well, this does sound very promising... Something Google Buzz never really did...