Abine Battles for Consumers’ Online Privacy in Post-Facebook Era

12/6/11Follow @gthuang

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from the browser and stopping the flow of information out, sort of like an outgoing firewall. The company also sells a service called DeleteMe, whereby consumers can remove themselves from online databases such as Spokeo; for a custom fee, users also can ask Abine to remove individual pictures, search results, or their Facebook or AOL profiles from the Web (this usually involves manual labor like sending letters to the relevant companies).

Abine started in 2009, founded by Sudbury, Rob Shavell, and Eugene Kuznetsov. They were literally “three guys and a dog” in the beginning, Sudbury says. The startup raised a $5.2 million Series A round led by Atlas Venture and General Catalyst Partners earlier this year. The company says it will be pushing 20 employees by the end of this year; it is actively hiring software developers and a handful of marketers.

Right now the biggest challenge is acquiring users. Abine is going after a mainstream, non-tech-savvy audience. Kerrigan, the CEO, says the company’s go-to-market strategy involves three steps. The first step is direct customer acquisition through search, display, and blogs. The second step involves making key acquisitions of privacy technologies and services (such as the acquisition of the T.A.C.O. browser add-on from last year). And the third step, down the road, will be forming partnerships with companies that have large customer bases in Internet security technologies, services, and identity theft protection.

At the end of the day, Sudbury sees his company playing a crucial role in the evolution of online privacy. “All these companies are taking advantage of technologies that people don’t understand,” he says, “to do all kinds of profiling that people would find unacceptable if they could tell in the real world” what was going on. “The result is massive amounts of data collected about you, which you have no control over,” he says.

If Sudbury has anything to say about it, Abine will soon be changing that equation.

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com or call him at 617-252-7323. Follow @gthuang

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