NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Shuli Hallak is in the cloud business.
Storing data in the cloud carries risks, but she is working on a secure version owned, operated and managed by you.
That privacy and security for data such as email, calendar and legal documents will come at a price — possibly as much as $100 a month.
"Privacy is a luxury at this point," says Hallak, founder of Invisible Networks, which works to reveal the physical infrastructure of the Internet, and of a company that will create boutique data privacy solutions for high-end clients.
Hallak envisions her as-yet-unnamed company starting out as a luxury, aimed at people who can afford it or who need to afford it, such as lawyers and others handling sensitive information.
"We get all of these services for free on the Internet, and in exchange we give up our data," says Hallak, who speaks regularly about issues of data privacy. "If you have your own cloud, you have complete control and you can let certain services access your data for a price."
"If a bank wants to access your data, there can be a price, and they pay a fee to you," she says.
Hallak is among a rapidly growing number of entrepreneurs developing companies that offer data and Internet privacy as a commodity.
If you're wondering why one would go to such lengths, just think back to the Sony email hacking scandal, which at the very least caused the disruption of a multimillion-dollar movie release. The nude celebrity photos stolen from Apple's iCloud and plastered over the Internet may hit even closer to home.
Or there's always the digital trail the average user leaves just by innocently browsing the Internet to be picked up by cookies, browser fingerprinting, authenticated tracking and more — all letting companies monitor your activity to inundate you with targeted ads based on your search history.
One search about foot fungus or legal assistance and you are forever seeing banner advertisements on those subjects during Internet sessions.
If you doubt the amount of personal information available on the Internet, just visit Pipl.com and enter your name to be shocked and disturbed by the depth of information about your life available to the public — everything from your age to your address, phone number, career history and more.
The $40 billion display advertising industry is built by intruding on the privacy of Web users, says Adriana Herrera, founder and CEO of GrandIntent, a new company that says it has developed the first advertising technology platform to put consumer preferences and privacy at the center of the ad experience.
The average Web user is being tracked by 100 advertising technologies each day, Herrera says.
"Existing display advertising platforms do not ask permission before a cookie is placed on your browser to follow, track, profile and advertise to you," she says. "The tracked, profiled and collected information is sold multiple times with no consent from the consumer. It is also used to push advertisements to end users regardless of whether they have transactional intent or affinity for the brand pushing the advertisement."
Aside from Halak's private clouds, many of the solutions to these data and Internet problems are free, or near free.
Ekko, developed by an entrepreneur whose business is inspired by consumer and data privacy issues, charges $5 a month or $50 a year. Launched just two weeks ago by Rick Peters, it is a secure Web and app platform that offers easy-to-use security controls for messaging and sharing content.
Using any linked account, Ekko can password-protect messages, redact them and set them to delete on read, after a predefined time or after a defined number of unique views.
"Let's say I need to send you some sensitive information, like a password, I can set it up so that as soon as you view it, the message will be gone," Peters says.
Ekko also allows users to search anonymously across all their messages and search engines, including emails, tweets, posts, contacts, attachments, Google, Facebook, Twitter, DuckDuckGo, Bing and more.
"This isn't about any sort of nefarious concerns," Peters says. "But you should have some concern that if there is all of this data out there about you, it's relatively easy to set you up for identity theft."
Ekko is available for your desktop computer via Ekko.net and for iPhone and iPad through Apple's app store.
Here are some other options to consider when it comes to protecting your data and your profile on the Internet:
This platform is for truly private Internet searches. When browsing the Internet through Private.Me, your searches will never be seen, stored or accessed by any single person or entity. But you can still choose to keep and revisit your search history, or delete it forever. When you use Private.me, all your personal data are encrypted, sliced up and distributed between geographically dispersed nonprofit organizations set up specifically to be stewards of user data.
This app allows you to browse the Internet without being tracked or forced to provide personal information to log in or complete transactions.
It also provides a password manager, a masking feature for sensitive information and the ability to block ad networks and data collection companies.
With nearly 40 million users and counting, this popular, free browser add-on allows users to see all the companies on a site that are trying to track you — and to block those trackers. It shows you what the company calls the "invisible Web" of cookies, tags, Web bugs and pixels, as well as a list of more than 1,900 ad networks and other companies interested in your activity.
This is a popular anonymous browser that doesn't store or sell data about you, meaning if you conduct a search about bankruptcy, bowling or binge eating you will not suddenly be the recipient of dozens of ads on those topics the next time you browse.
— Written by Mia Taylor for MainStreet