With Secure Data Storage Tool, Neone Focuses on Selective Sharing

[Updated 11/17/15, 8:36 a.m. See below.] Internet security can seem a distant, extraneous issue until it directly affects you, in the form of something like stolen credit card information or a photo that goes public when you didn’t intend it to.

For the founder of Austin, TX-based Neone, the issue of security extends beyond merely shared photos: Movie studios that want to keep their production under wraps may want a closed system to store details about planned shoots; government agencies might need a closed system over which they can securely communicate through instant messages or otherwise. Because much of the private data shared on the web is stored or processed in some form on servers owned by a third-party such as Google or smaller administrators, consumers are expected to trust that everything is safe, says Neone founder Dave Glassco.

“When you put your data through someone else’s server, all you have is a promise that your data is secure,” Glassco says. “A promise that they’re not going to let other people look at it. A promise that your data hasn’t been hacked.”

Glassco and his team at Neone built a tool, called the Neobase, that is meant to alleviate concern about taking or sharing private data like videos or documents over a connected network. The Neobase is in essence a server that a person can keep at home, allowing him or her to store information like photos, videos, documents, and conversations in a private, secure server that only the owner can access, Glassco says.

Social media networks like Facebook and Google Plus have become multibillion dollar businesses, thanks in large part to the data the companies collect about users. Neone cites a Pew Research study from May that says only 9 percent of Americans believe they have “a lot” of control over how much information is collected about them.

Glassco, a Texas native who has a background working with servers and advocating for open source computing, founded the company in 2014. The company has raised $7 million from private investors, including Glassco himself.

Neone installs an app on the Neobase that operates like a social network, allowing people with a Neobase to communicate and share things with other people who have a Neobase and those who don’t. Last week, the startup made the product available for sale on its website. It costs $199.

Even though the user is sharing links to the data, it is secure because Neone allows for communication from the device through an encrypted virtual private network, a VPN, Glassco says. Using this kind of network allows users to create a “secure tunnel” to another person, and selectively share links, photos, and other material with specific friends at the user’s discretion, Glassco says.

After the Neobase is set up, the owner can access the social network on the company’s app to build a profile, upload photos, and share comments or thoughts, among other actions, much like a social media network. A Neobase owner can still share content with friends who don’t have one yet, the company says. [Paragraph updated to clarify that the user accesses the social network through an app, not a Neobase-specific browser.]

“This content never passes through a third party like Facebook or Google,” the company wrote in a prepared statement. “Neobase uses an encrypted, person-to-person, decentralized communications protocol to keep all content entirely safe from prying eyes.”

David Holley is Xconomy's national correspondent based in Austin, TX. You can reach him at dholley@xconomy.com Follow @xconholley

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