SAFE Network For Everyone – Interview with MaidSafe’s Dug Campbell
We are pumped to host our next interview of the series. This time we talked to Mr. Dug Campbell from MaidSafe. There aren’t many projects that have built their product for more than a decade, which is quite an exceptional feat in this industry. The SAFE network is a decentralized, autonomous, secure peer-to-peer network.
The history, future plans, meetups and the biggest myth about MaidSafe – read all about it below.
What’s your story, Dug? How did you end up with MaidSafe?
Back in January 2014, I set up the Scottish Bitcoin Meetup which was at the time the first crypto meetup in Scotland. The MaidSafe guys came along to the very first meetup and I was hooked on the concept immediately. I’ve been part of the community since that time and recently joined the team to head up Marketing and Outreach.
The easiest way to explain MaidSafe to a friend who doesn’t understand technology?
We’re building a new internet. We need one because your data isn’t secure on the internet today. Whilst you might think of it as ‘yours’, all of your data (such as emails, photographs, documents) today is stored – and controlled – by third parties. You have no other choice than to rely on large data centres, owned by companies like Google and Facebook. That means data gets lost, leaked, sold and siloed in ways that the public are only now starting to understand damages their interests.
At MaidSafe, the new Internet that we’re building is called the SAFE Network. It stands for Secure Access for Anyone – because anyone in the world will be able to use it. All data on the Network is private, secure and encrypted by default. After downloading free software, any user can join the new internet and be certain that their data can only be used in ways that they consent to. By sharing your computer power with the Network, you not only help to run the Network, you also get paid for doing so with the Network’s inbuilt financial incentivisation (Safecoin).
What makes MaidSafe unique in the decentralized storage category?
Many things. First, the SAFE Network stores the actual data. Many so-called decentralised storage projects store just pointers on a blockchain that lead to the actual data still being stored ‘off-chain’ in locations which don’t solve the existing storage insecurities of today’s internet. Others are building on top of blockchain architecture which unfortunately is fundamentally poor as a mass-storage solution. As much as we love blockchain technology, it faces significant issues with throughput (transactions-per-second), continually increasing storage requirements and a probabilistic (rather than absolute) certainty that transactions have actually taken place on the Network.
Second: people often think that we’re building a decentralised storage solution – but that is only part of the picture. The SAFE Network is about way, way more than that. The Network is an entire global communications and data network. It’s the world’s first autonomous network – in other words, there is no human intervention required. It is self-healing, self-configuring and self-managing. Anyone can join, no human is required to authorise that access and no-one (other than the Network) will ever know where your data is physically located until you choose to decrypt it.
What are the benefits of hosting my web on the SAFE network or encrypting my mail?
Hosting your website and content on the SAFE Network will make your data permanently accessible, uncensorable and, somewhat counterintuitively, it should also save you money. This is because the unique economic model of the SAFE Network requires that you only pay (in Safecoin) once to upload data to the Network where it will remain permanently. So there are no annual hosting fees for your website, for example.
The public are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of encrypting personal email. Without going into arguments, privacy in personal communication is an important pillar within a modern free society. Yet today, the vast majority of users rely on software (e.g Gmail) that is layered on top of the email protocol (SMTP) for their written communication. In other words, all of your email content lives on other people’s servers. With SAFE, every piece of your data is split into sections, encrypted with itself and then continually moves around other people’s computers on the Network until you – and you alone – choose to retrieve it. No one will know where it is or what it contains.
How vulnerable are people to data leaks and how do you guarantee that my data is safe on your network?
Any time you give up sole control of your data, the presence of that third party is a de facto security risk. On the SAFE Network, we flip the current model on its head. The original internet was built to enable connectivity – not security. As an open network which could enable collaboration to flourish, we’ve been mostly powerless as power and data has centralised amongst a small number of technology and governmental behemoths. You don’t give up this control on the SAFE Network. As you’ll see by downloading and running the Alpha 2 software today, you can’t put data onto the Network without it first being encrypted. Suddenly the balance of power has changed in favour of the individual.
Could SAFE network protect us from the recent Cambridge Analytica scandal?
There are many sides to the recent Cambridge Analytica scandal – and almost every one of these could have been either prevented or avoided on the SAFE Network. To recap, the scandal revolved around the collection of personally identifiable information about c.87 million Facebook users. Despite data originally being collected from only a few hundred thousand Facebook users who chose to complete a survey and give the app access to their News Feed, timeline and messages, the social network enabled the data of those individuals’ social circles to also be scraped. The result? This data is now publicly available online and has been used by a variety of political campaigns.
On the SAFE Network, each individual has to actively consent to each use of his or her data. What’s more, access to that data could be removed in the future. Data portability – best explained as the ability to take all of your personal data, including the links to your social circle and the history of your activities, when you leave a service such as Facebook – is a crucial part of the SAFE Network. If you don’t agree with the surveillance, you would no longer have to take it on accept it – you could simply move on, taking your data and preventing any further damage.
What ís the biggest achievement you’ll celebrate with the MaidSafe team 3 years from now?
The biggest achievement will be having the SAFE Network out live in the wild, accessible to all and with a global community using it every day whilst an ecosystem of developers explodes in growth in the race to build privacy-conscious new goods and services. The progress we’ve made to date is huge – with the progress of the Alpha network so far, we’ve proved the technology works – but there’s no rest until we get the full picture launched!
What is the biggest myth/misconception about MaidSafe?
That we have a blockchain! We don’t, for the reasons above. We share similar goals with the ecosystem – we believe that decentralisation is crucial and we are utterly committed to open source development – but we’ve never had a blockchain. This means that we’re able to store the encrypted data itself within a global network – and a vastly greater amount of data also (a necessity when you consider the imminent data tsunami on the horizon with the advent of the internet of things and connected vehicles, amongst others).
Any upcoming events that our readers can expect?
In April, we ran SAFE DevCon 2018, our first European Developer conference which saw many developers from around the world spend a couple of days chatting and working on the system. We’ll go into planning for SAFE DevCon 2019 soon – watch this space – but there are also a number of meetups around the world, including Chicago, London, Amsterdam, Kuala Lumpur, Melbourne, Cordoba to name just a few. You can check these out on meetup.com by searching for ‘SAFE Network’.
What is it that needs to be said about cryptocurrency world (optional)?
Although development of the SAFE Network pre-dates Bitcoin (Founder David Irvine started MaidSafe in 2006), we’re huge fans of cryptocurrency in general. We need inclusive global value transfer mechanisms if we want to truly see collaboration on a massive scale around the world. Obviously we believe that Safecoin will be a crucial part of this once the Network launches – with no transaction fees, instant confirmation, true anonymity and an availability to anyone who wants to farm (in other words, run a storage vault on their computer). There will be an exponential growth in cryptocurrencies in my opinion – but by simply requiring a computer, Safecoin will be the one that is the most inclusive.
Thank you, Dug, this was awesome!