Meet Cozy, a French startup that wants to completely rethink how cloud services work. The startup first launched a Dropbox-like competitor to store, synchronize and share all your files. Now, the company wants to go one step further and create an ecosystem of open-source services that respect your privacy.
When I met with Cozy co-founder and CEO Benjamin André earlier this week, he was fed up with the long-lasting opposition between privacy and convenience. Many people believe that you have to make a choice — you can either give up on your online privacy to access convenient services, or you have to accept that you won’t be as productive because you don’t want to share data with big online tech companies.
And yet, chances are that nearly everyone around you has a Google account, or a Facebook account, or an Amazon account, or all of those. Those companies have now built countless services to address all your digital needs. They can even create synergies between those services — you can import your Facebook contacts to Instagram, you can save a photo from Gmail to your Google Drive, you can order a book from your Amazon Echo.
Big tech companies have increased their stickiness and turned the convenience knob to eleven. As Cozy Chief Product Officer Tristan Nitot told me, they have created vacuum cleaners for personal data. They can then target you much more easily with ads, influence public opinion and collaborate with surveillance agencies.
Instead of creating yet another ecosystem of hosted services financed by ads, Cozy wants to change the balance and create a platform where the user is in charge. As you can read in the terms of service, you remain the owner of your data and your data won’t be shared with anyone unless you give your consent.
The company just unveiled the first services of this new platform today. First, it starts with a good old file-syncing service. With Cozy Drive, you can install an app on all your computers, synchronize files with Cozy’s servers and find them everywhere — on your other computer, on your phone or on the web.
Second, Cozy Photos lets you backup your photos. This works like Google Photos, Microsoft OneDrive’s Camera Upload and similar features. Your photos are stored in your Cozy Drive and you can browse them in a nice web interface.
But Cozy doesn’t want to stop at files. There are a ton of other data points out there that deserve to be collected in your personal cloud. That’s why Cozy Collect lets you connect all your customer accounts to download and store all your bills in your Cozy Drive.
So if you want to check your electricity bill or phone bill, you can browse your Cozy Drive and find them in Cozy’s familiar interface. The startup is partnering with Linxo for those connectors, but the open-source community will be able to build more connectors.
With those fundamental bricks, you can then imagine a ton of additional services. For instance, the startup is currently beta-testing Cozy Banks, a banking aggregator that lets you click on common expenses to open the PDF bill instantly. Soon, with Cozy Health you’ll be able to track health expenses and see if you’ve been reimbursed by your health insurance.
At heart, Cozy remains a platform. You can install apps on your personal cloud and add more services. The Cozy Store isn’t open yet, but third-party developers will be able to add new services. Cozy doesn’t want to become a walled garden.
Big French companies have also partnered with Cozy to develop Cozy apps. Companies have to comply with GDPR before May 2018, and Cozy wants to play a role in that. Many institutions have to create APIs and open up access to user data.
While big tech companies are probably going to take advantage of those APIs to grab even more personal data, Cozy is thinking that big French companies should also provide Cozy integrations to compete with tech giants.
They can work with Cozy to make their online services GDPR-compliant and create Cozy apps. For instance, there will be an EDF app to see your energy consumption, your plan and more. This app doesn’t let EDF access your Cozy data.
In addition to working with big French companies, Cozy is also going to make money from its premium plans. By default, you get 5GB of free storage and access to all Cozy integrations. You can also pay $3.71 per month (€2.99) for 50GB or $12.40 per month (€9.99) for 1,000GB.
Cozy has been around for a few years, but this feels like a brand new start for the company. The startup has an ambitious vision and strong values. It’s going to be interesting to see how the service evolves in the coming months.