Current social media applications that billions of people around the world use on a daily basis have a major flaw… THEY DON’T LET THEIR USERS OWN THEIR DATA!
But what if I told you there is a new social media application that does not agree with this preposterous dynamic? 😉
You can Own Your Data with Omnii
Omnii is a privacy-conscious social media, messaging, and contacts application with a focus on users owning their data.
We believe a user should be able to retain ownership of their data based on their choices. We simply call this the Own Your Data (OYD) Paradigm.
Why is Own Your Data important?
Today’s popular social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, etc.) abuse the collection of their users’ information for the purpose of their own monetary gain; disregarding their users’ right to privacy. We are in the early stages of bootstrapping our business, Omnii, to help address this problem and give people the ability to control and own their data, instead of their data being owned and leveraged by the platform they are using.
Question: Other than being social media applications, what do the aforementioned platforms (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok) have in common?
Answer: You can download, install, and continuously use them for “free” (free in this context meaning you don’t have to pay any monetary value).
Question: If a company like Facebook’s users are using the app for free, how has Facebook become the 5th richest company in the world, currently valued at $550 billion dollars?
Answer: The reason is that all of the data companies like Facebook collect on their users is incredibly valuable, as well as the amount of influence these companies have over the people that are constantly using their apps on a daily basis.
We theorize that the reason companies are able to profit from people’s information is that a user’s information and free thought are the transactional costs for using a company’s services without users really understanding the costs of this transaction. Companies make their products free, useful, and user friendly. The apps and services people perceive as free are actually leveraged as other transactions against them; such as their time, subconscious influence (emotional, political, etc.), persuasion into other monetary transactions (purchasing products or services they have seen ads for), etc… This is currently an uncalculated cost to the consumer; which is why these businesses are able to profit so well from these kinds of transactions. Users have to adhere to giving up their data, time, and free thought to use these platforms – either unknowingly, or because it is the only option in order to use the platforms.
Omnii is seeking to change this dynamic by providing a social media platform that doesn’t come at the cost of users giving up their data rights nor their free thought. With Omnii, we are focusing on business models that don’t leverage users’ information or influence as our business transaction.
On Omnii, users own their data – their messages, posts, connections with people, behaviors in the app, etc. – their data is not collected or used as a transactional cost in any fashion. The data a user generates in the Omnii app is owned by that user.
Own Your Data means you are in control of how you share your data, you can track where your data goes, and you can choose to update or delete it (among other options). This new Own Your Data (OYD) Paradigm allows for each user to retain the rights to their data even when it resides on other people’s devices.
Own Your Data
At it’s core, Omnii has been designed and developed to allow its users to be in as much control of their data as possible through techniques such as encryption and decentralization. If these terms don’t mean anything to you, or make you think you are in over your head with technical jargon, do not worry, we will try to explain these terms at a high level, why they are important, and how they are implemented in Omnii to enable the data privacy and data ownership that we feel everyone should be entitled to.
Encryption is leveraged in Omnii, allowing users to be in control of their data. Without encryption, owning your data wouldn’t be possible. We use encryption in motion and encryption at rest. Basically this means while your data is being transferred to its recipient(s) it isn’t viewable by anyone but the recipient(s) (in motion). In addition, when the data arrives on a user’s device, it is stored within an encrypted database on the device (at rest).
Encryption is a method which converts human readable plaintext (like “Hey”) to unreadable ciphertext (like “as089fhRVuFmmL0”), so if someone other than the sender or the intended recipient(s) tries to read the message, all they see is the unreadable ciphertext, while the sender and the intended recipient(s) can view the human readable plaintext version of the message.
Encryption In Motion
We use End-to-end encryption (E2EE) which means the data is encrypted on one end point (the originating device) and decrypted on another end point (the receiving device). At no point is the data decrypted in-between the end points, nor is the data sent off a device before encryption or after decryption.
We use E2EE for encryption in motion or when transporting the data across a network. Depending on the network protocol, we might only encrypt the data or we might encrypt the data and encrypt the transport protocol.
Omnii uses a combination of asymmetric encryption and symmetric encryption. Each device creates it own Public/Private Key Pairs and shares its Public Keys with other users on the platform. The recipient’s Public Key is used to encrypt the data and only the recipient’s Private Key can decrypt the data. In some instances a Shared Secret is used between the end points or users.
Through the use of End-to-end encryption a user has a chance at owning their own data, but this is just one piece of the puzzle! This piece prevents the modification of data from parties other than the true sender. This means once the data arrives on the recipient’s device, the recipient and the owner will know the owner’s data is a true, unaltered representation of the data that was sent. This is important when in comes to owning your data because in order for you to truly own your data, you have to ensure that no one else is able to obtain, redistribute, or alter your data while it is in transport.
Encryption At Rest
Encryption at rest means when the data is on an end point, the data isn’t accessible by any other applications other than the application that has the key. For us this means no other application on the device will be able to access either the recipient’s data, nor the sender’s data. Symmetric encryption is used for this purpose.
We make sure the Omnii database is only accessible via the application (Omnii); which is the second piece of the puzzle to owning your data. We need to make sure recipients can’t obtain, redistribute, or alter your data unless you, the originator, allows these behaviors.
Note: We do not claim tamper resistance with the recipient’s device and your data secured within their database, but we do our due diligence to protect your data on other people’s devices.
For us, decentralization means accessible data is distributed between peers (Omnii users’ devices) and not stored in a decrypted state within any central location or backend. If the data is decrypted on any backend system then the end user really isn’t in control of their data. If a vendor can have access to decrypted data at any point in the system, then the end user really isn’t in control of their data. For these reasons, Omnii is a decentralized system.
We do understand that there is a level of trust needed, even when all data is encrypted by the end points, and we are working to gain that trust.
As a part of the data being decentralized, users need to be able to find their data on different devices and this is accomplished through a unique tracking mechanism. On Omnii, each user can track where their data is located on active devices. If a user sends data to a friend then their data is tracked and can be updated or deleted if the user chooses to do these actions. The tracking works with all data that is on the Omnii decentralized network. This means, for example, if you send a message to a friend and they forward the message to another friend, you will know your data was forwarded to this other friend. If you choose to update the message, all parties that have the original message will get the update.
Only the original user sending information tracks their information from their device.
We have implemented tracking through three “share permission” options. The ability to set the share permission option is determined if the recipient is on or off the Omnii network. If a recipient is on the Omnii network, you will be able to choose one of these three options below.
- Unshareable – This option only allows the recipient to receive and view the message or post – nothing else. The recipient will not be able to copy or forward the data to anyone else. Also, the recipient cannot screenshot the data. You will be able to track your data on the recipient’s device.
- Only Omnii – This option only allows recipients on the Omnii platform to interact and share the message or post. The recipient will not be able to copy of forward the data to users off the Omnii network. You will be able to track your data on any device the data was sent to.
- On/Off Omnii – This option allows the data to be sent on or off the Omnii network. If the data is on a peer’s device that is on the Omnii network, the data will be tracked, but any user can send the data to users off the network. This is a choice and users must realize that they are making the choice to no longer track their data if the data goes off platform.
Note: If you send data to an off platform user then you are making a choice to no longer be in control of your data.
Tracking can be viewed through a node graph or a list of messages. The graph shows who you have sent messages to with the ability to drill into where your messages have been sent by any one recipient. If your message has been shared with someone who isn’t in your contact list, then their information (name, telephone number) is masked from you, protecting their privacy; however, you can still update or delete your data from this person’s device. When viewing a specific user within the node graph you can further check to see:
- Messages the user sent to the other users
- Posts the user sent to the other users
- An overview of the objects tracked for the user
The users of the current social media apps on the market today have to make the decision to give up the right of owning their data (among other things) in order to connect with their friends and family online. Omnii is a new social media application determined to disrupt this dynamic and provide a platform where people can still connect with their loved ones while retaining control and ownership of the data they generate – the Own Your Data (OYD) Paradigm.
We have implemented a number of techniques to enable you to Own Your Data while using Omnii, such as:
- End-to-end encryption (E2EE) / Encryption in motion
- Encryption at rest
- Tracking & Share Permissions
We are very excited to bring this application to the public and provide people a social media option that does not take advantage of their data, but instead lets them own their data.
If you are interested in being an early adopter and helping shape the direction of the project, Omnii is currently in Beta for Android on the Google Play Store and we are kindly accepting new testers in the U.S.