Todd Weaver

Founder and CEO
PGP Fingerprint: B8CA ACEA D949 30F1 23C4 642C 23CF 2E3D 2545 14F7

Data privacy and security are important for all of us, no matter if we are talking about a corporation or just somebody who’s on a social network.

I have just had a wonderful conversation with Greg Nibler, from Digital Trends Live, about all kinds of different ways these issues are being tackled. Greg started by asking me to introduce Purism, and why we do what we do.

Well, we started around 2014 as a Social Purpose Company: we advance social good over maximizing profit. We build laptops, a secure token called a Librem Key, and we are also coming out with the Librem 5: a smartphone that doesn’t run on Android nor IOS, but our own operating system PureOS (the same you get on our laptops). These are available today, with the Librem 5 phone (on pre-order now) coming out in Q3 of this year. Our services—chat, email, social media, VPN—are all standardized protocols, decentralized, with no data retention and end-to-end encrypted. We are going to continue to put out more and more hardware, software, and services as we progress.

I’m kind of a hardcore geek, both in the hardware and software side—but I also am a digital rights activist, making Purism my dream come true by combining hardware, software and services together, in one convenient package. What is awesome is that our entire team is excited about the exact same thing: making convenient products that respect people. Hardware is a little bit more security-minded and privacy-focused, it is where the hardcore audience is: it really gets down to a trust and verified model. The same happens with software: it all needs to be released.

It’s just like with organic food – you have to inspect the soil, so regulators can say ‘hey, this is actually organic’. We do that same entire model within the hardware realm: we release everything for verification, and that gives us peace of mind at that low level—all the way up to services.

We also believe services should always be end-to-end encrypted, and they should never track people. We bundle all of our ethical services together into one package, and if we hand you a laptop you don’t have to know that the schematics were released, that the software was all released. What we offer was built by a Social Purpose Company, you can just turn it on and use it.

Kill-switches on a Librem laptop
Kill-switches on a Librem laptop

Greg was curious about the kill-switches we install in our laptops: I told him it’s kind of an old thing, a reboot of the kill-switches on early devices – just like a light switch, it allows you to toggle off the hardware. You can physically sever the circuit of the webcam and microphone, so they don’t have any power to the actual device.

And they are really, really easy to use. We are going to have them on the Librem 5 phone as well, so you can turn the webcam and microphone off, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, even the cellular connection if you want to. Why don’t Big Tech companies use these any longer? It was easy to do it in software; then it became this trust issue, where you could have your webcam on even though the light didn’t come on… What’s fascinating is we’re actually starting to see Big Tech companies use these, and a few other devices, because of these privacy-invading concerns. Big Tech is going to be pushing this privacy talk as well—even though it’s more a marketing thing than related to any type of credibility.

How do I see these issues evolving? They are clearly going to continue to grow around how much data is being gathered, where things are joining together, and data leakage. Data retention policies are going to start coming out: how long somebody holds the data for, what data is being stored, how all of these little bits of data add up to a giant story about you—and how that story is exploited.

We ended the interview with a clear notion of what Purism is—successfully, ethically—competing against. It was a cool chat, do watch the video and listen to the full version here. And thank you, Greg Nibler and Digital Trends Live!

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