Paranoia is de rigueur in the digital sphere, thanks to Edward Snowden’s big reveal that governments everywhere are ceaselessly spying on their citizens via the medium of the Internet. If your data is stored by a consumer cloud service, chances are it’s open to sifting by intelligence agency algorithms (and/or being data-mined for commercial reasons by the service provider). Privacy has been traded for convenience, even if users weren’t aware that was the deal when they first signed up to use slick cloud-based services like Dropbox et al.
But there are growing counter currents as a pro-privacy movement builds. And many newly minted startups are at the fore of this movement, seeking ways to put the user back in the driving seat when it comes to their own data. To that end meet Wedg, a self-hosted storage and email device, with sync and share features for cloud storage, plus support for media streaming, and website and app hosting. But this is a personal cloud — which sits in your home so your data does not have to be stored in a vast third-party repository just so you can access your own files on your phone or when away from home.
Wedg is currently in development, with its UK-based makers raising money via the Indiegogo crowdfunding platform to get their prototype to market as shopping product. It’s actually the second bite at the crowdfunding cherry for Wedg, after an earlier campaign was unsuccessful. It’s since tweak the hardware to support faster Ethernet and USB connections, based on crowdfunding feedback — and relaunched with two versions of Wedg: the original ARM-based version and a more powerful Wedg Pro, which has an Intel Atom chipset.
As you’d expect for a pro-privacy device, Wedg’s makers are trumpeting the security credentials of their private cloud. They’re using AES and XTS-AES to deliver 512bit encryption, there’s built-in key management, 2-factor authentication on its mobile app, SSL connections, and they’re managing shared content and keys using GPG/OpenPGP. Sensitive user data is also sandboxed away from any third party apps within a secure zone on the device to prevent outside services accessing encrypted content. The project is open source, although the code has not yet been opened up.
Wedg’s makers are hoping to ignite outside developer interest to extend their device’s functionality with additional apps — beyond those they will be offering themselves at launch. “Wedg isn’t just for file storage, it’s an email server, media server for streaming movies, music and photos to smart devices, it will also host your websites and is open for developers to create apps and expand the Wedg capabilities,” says founder and CEO Shehbaz Afzal, detailing the initial feature-set.
“We envisage apps for photo galleries, centralised password stores, Bitcoin wallets,” he adds. “If we’re able to meet our [Indiegogo] stretch goal of £135,000 we will start development of a web based office suite much like Google Docs and Office 365 for centralised real-time collaboration from the Wedg.”
“Right now it seems our privacy is at a constant threat from numerous bodies, and most of the time we don’t even know it’s going on, yet we have little choice for a real alternative. Wedg aims to be that real all-in-one alternative… [It] really puts the user/owner in control, there is a simple hard drive upgrade procedure; multiple secure backup options and we also provide a dynamic DNS routing service to help novice users get started quickly.”
Wedg is by no means the first personal cloud to bang the pro-privacy drum, post-Snowden. Afzal names Sherlybox as its main competitor, for instance. It also follows in the footsteps of Pixeom, another private cloud device we covered back in February. And CloudLocker. As more of these devices crop up, it points to a growing appetite among web users to take back control of their data from a mainline commercial cloud that has been shown to have failed to safeguard user data from outside forces. Expect to see a lot more of these small-scale private cloud devices pushing into the fringes of the market, and fragmenting a portion of user data into individual silos with the promise of convenience and control.
Wedg is being priced at £219 on Indiegogo for the Pro version with a 1TB storage capacity, or £149 for the ARM-based Wedge, also with 1TB of storage. It’s also offering driveless versions of the device for users just wanting to expand their storage capacity. At the time of writing Wedg has raised almost £59,000 of its £71,000 funding target, with another 58 days left of its campaign to run so looks well on the way to getting funded. It’s estimated shipping schedule to backers is next March.