Is “private” and “online” possible?

While we were running an ad campaign to promote our secure offline diary app “Paranoid Diary”, we noticed that many people search for “private online diary”, or, even worse, “free private online diary”. Here’s why it is as impossible as perpetual motion machine.

“Online” means that there is a server somewhere on the network which stores your data. Even if we assume that this server is absolutely secure, and only the manufacturer of the diary can have access to your data, will the manufacturer behave?

Keeping the server running costs money. Whenever the application has anything “online” in it, it means there are servers running, and someone is paying for it. Do the companies do it for charity? Very unlikely. Companies usually extract every tiny bit of profit they can, doubly so if the app is “free”. So what exactly stops them from trying to monetize your private diary records? Nothing really. When did you last time carefully read the license agreement, did it clearly say what the company cannot do with your data? Do you have a way to verify that the company obeys its own license agreement? The usual answer is “no”. The reality is that there are many ways to circumvent the exact wording of a license agreement that would allow the company to use your diary records for ads targeting at least, even if the company doesn’t explicitly resell your data to third parties.

Then, even the assumption that nobody but the company can have access to your data stored by the server can easily be wrong. Have you thought about the government authorities and other parties which can force the company to do so? Have you considered a scenario, when in your “private” online diary you describe a nightmare you had, and some of the keywords from it trigger the authorities attention? Having weird dreams is legal, but describing them in words in and sharing it might get you in big trouble.

So, dear users, be smart, be safe, be realistic – it’s either “private” or “online”. Choose wisely.