MIT Technology Review describe a research effort from Microsoft inspired by the increasing privacy concern in the wake of Facebook’s willful marginalizing of their users’ concerns. Contrail stores all of the information destined for sharing encrypted in the cloud. Everything about it is opt-in rather than the increasingly normal policy of being included in new social network features and having to act to be excluded.
The idea of encrypting user data so an operator couldn’t share their data isn’t new. There are even tools to overlay similar functionality on existing networks. As much as I like the concept, I think it may have unobvious sacrifices in terms of foregoing a certain element of serendipity.
Regardless, I am pleased with the continued interest in alternatives to Facebook. A promising, non-research effort in this vein, Diaspora, just released their one month update. The fact that interested developers have yet to see any code is concerning however that the project is forging ahead rather than petering out after the initial attention dissipated is encouraging. I am optimistic in the face of strong interest in providing better choices beyond the current dominant social network.