Interview with Valentin, software developer at Tutanota, on why privacy is important on the net, why he likes working at Tutanota, and how the future of the Internet should look like in a perfect world.
I have been involved in human rights for over ten years and have worked with CAREA e.V. human rights monitoring in Mexico and Guatemala. Mostly CAREA is helping communities, who fight for their land rights and against displacement by large-scale projects (e.g. mining, highway construction, tourism). In Guatemala, however, these are also organizations of survivors who have brought high-ranking military officers to justice for the genocide of the Mayan population. The fight for these rights is, unfortunately, repeatedly paid for with people's lives.
Working with these threatened human rights defenders has made me aware of the dangers of surveillance and how important communication security is for a free, democratic society. Since then I have also been fascinated by the technical and mathematical side of these tools and have been working with great enthusiasm to find technical solutions for secure communication. This is one of the reasons why I really want to contribute to Tutanota and make the product so well that in the future everyone can communicate easily and securely without technical knowledge.
I like the agile and open way of working. Everyone can bring in their own ideas and help shape things. I decide for myself which features I want to work on. That means you have the freedom to look for creative solutions, in the areas that you find most exciting. At the same time, you're not left alone with your tasks. We discuss together in the team or with other developers how a problem can be solved. Often we then also implement it together in a pair programming session. I like the exchange, the learning from each other. I think that this way we are always finding a better solution than we would have if each one of us had been working on a task alone.
The Internet does not provide for privacy-by-design. Because today's problems regarding privacy and IT security were not foreseeable when the main protocols of the Internet were developed. The entire protocol stack is not designed to ensure security, anonymity, and privacy. Therefore, user data is generated everywhere. Today, both government surveillance and the big advertising-funded tech companies are taking advantage of this. That's why it is very important to encrypt your communications end-to-end, e.g. with Tutanota, and to use tools like Tor for anonymous surfing without being tracked and monitored.
In a perfect interconnected world, the protocol stack we know today as the Internet would be built in such a way that messages would be automatically encrypted at all protocol levels, while at the same time routing would work in such a way so that users would remain anonymous. And, of course, the infrastructure and the most important services would not be controlled by a few tech giants, but decentralized and democratically controlled. There are exciting projects like GNUnet, which are going in this direction. However, it will be very difficult to make the existing infrastructures and protocols available to all. That's why it's so important to find solutions that can protect our security and privacy despite these shortcomings of hte Internet as such.
Apart from the fact that I don't want advertising companies or government watchdogs to build a personal behavioral profile of me, I find it extremely disturbing when there are large masses of data about so many people. I think it's not only a threat to every individual, but by analyzing these huge amounts of data, it becomes possible to predict the behavior of individuals better and better and thus also to manipulate people. I think we are only at the beginning here, but I see this as a great threat to all non-conformist lifestyles, as well as to democracy and freedom. We must oppose this, individually, by making our communication secure, but also collectively by forcing politicians to write privacy into laws and to stop dangerous political developments (such as sanctioning the use of end-to-end encryption).