Kim Dotcom's new end-to-end encrypted file storage and sharing service, Mega, is being billed as The Privacy Company that "provides robust cloud storage with convenient and powerful, always-on privacy. MEGA believes in your right to privacy and provides you with the technology tools to protect it. We call it User Controlled Encryption, or UCE, and it happens automatically." Mega is hosted in New Zealand and it officially launched Sunday, Jan. 20, a year after Dotcom was arrested.
The site has a quote from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 12: "No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference."
As a huge privacy and security fan, I wanted to try out this new service. First off, Mega plays nicely with Chrome. Register, agree to Terms of Service, check email to confirm free account, then re-enter password.
Next, you see:
My first upload attempt was a small 22MB folder to backup data, but the first tiny 57kb file did absolutely nothing with "infinity" listed as remaining upload time.
Ah, there must be a ton of people trying out Mega at the moment. Indeed, Kim Dotcom tweeted about traffic:
Yes, Mega is definitely busy and buggy at this point as the 22MB folder took __ to upload.
While waiting for the upload and to fill in that blank, here's why you should try Mega - 50GB of free cloud storage protected by end-to-end 2048-bit encrypted data. The beauty of User Controlled Encryption is that even if law enforcement were to force Mega to turn over data, it's garbled because Mega doesn't hold the decryption key. It's up to you, if you choose to share a file or folder as well as your decryption key. This also serves to protect Dotcom since Mega can't "see" and therefore be liable for what is being shared. While some people believe that is handy for piracy, it is also undoubtedly great for privacy.
Regarding infringement, Mega TOS states: "You are strictly prohibited from using our services to infringe copyright...We reserve the right to remove data alleged to be infringing without prior notice, at our sole discretion, and without liability to you."
I checked back at the Mega upload progress and there were still issues trying to upload a 33kb text file. Below are a few screenshots to show the progress.
Dotcom is currently free on bail, but faces an extradition hearing in March and as much as 20 years in a U.S. prison for each of the racketeering and money-laundering charges in the indictment against him. He maintains that the case against Megaupload was politically motivated after SOPA legislation failed in a big way. Of the case against Megaupload, Dotcom said, "If someone sends something illegal in an envelope through your postal service, you don't shut down the post office."
Dotcom told the Guardian that he thought like an American but now has a "much better understanding" about "how the U.S. government operates and how much spying is actually going on, how much privacy intrusion is the reality today...we are very close to George Orwell's vision becoming a reality." He added that the U.S. government is "hacking the legal system."
The big Mega launch party happened a year after he was arrested. Ars Technica reported "During prelaunch drinks, guests are buzzed by a remote controlled drone helicopter. During the presentation, they are buzzed by the real-thing as a helicopter lands and mock FBI agents rappel down the sides of Dotcom mansion."
At the Mega launch, Dotcom stated:
"Privacy is a basic human right, but it has become increasingly difficult to communicate privately. More and more companies are collecting data about you and your behavior. ISPs are inspecting the data you transfer, on behalf of the content industry. Hosting companies sell their decommissioned services and hard drives with your data still on it... the US government is investing billions into massive spy clouds."
Privacy isn't just a personal or selfish interest-it's a value vital to keeping power in check, he argued. "It's about the human need for refuge from the eye of the community. Privacy maintains balance between the individual and the state."
Although the plan was to step you through setting up Mega, test it out and review the service, you have to keep in mind that it's still very much in beta. The TOS states, "We do not make any guarantees that there will be no loss of data or the services will be bug free."
Terms of Service: "Our service includes UCE. You should keep your encryption keys safe and confidential and not release them to anyone unless you wish them to have access to your data. If you lose or misplace your encryption keys, you will lose access to your data. We strongly urge you to use robust anti-virus and firewall protection." Additionally, "You must maintain copies of all data stored by you on our service." And, according to number 8: "Our service may automatically delete a piece of data you upload or give someone else access to where it determines that that data is an exact duplicate of original data already on our service. In that case, you will access that original data."
Ars reported that in about six months, Mega future plans include:
Megabox, which will offer music, cutting in artists on profits. The second is Megakey, which will allow people to access that content for free if they earn credits by installing a plugin that substitutes ads served up by websites with those fed from the Mega network. (A service called "Megamovie" is also in the works, and will offer a similar setup for films.)
Dotcom claims that, at first, "Only 10 percent of the ads you see will be 'adjusted'. This is not a general removal of ads. We're not going to replace ads off small publishers, for example, or sites that have an Alexa rating below 100. That is not our goal. We'll be taking it [ad revenue] from the big guys, and giving it to the smaller artists."
At this point in trying out Mega, I was tired of all this waiting; the 22MB folder still hadn't uploaded. The next step was for testing purposes with a friend who does not yet have a Mega account. I did get the link to a tiny file and shared it...but you are advised against dropping it into unencrypted email. Instead, consider encrypted email or using a "self-destructing" message service.
My friend was not required to register, but if the person with whom you are sharing happens to use Firefox, Mega calls it "outdated" and claims, "While other browser vendors are still struggling to implement the full spectrum of HTML5's functionality, Google Chrome has it all - today."
Yet even using Chrome when trying to download a simple 9KB text file, the service was "temporary unavailable."
There are three "pro" Mega memberships if you want more storage, as seen below, but this test involved the freebie 50GB account.
Although I had hoped to give Mega beta a wonderful review because it does protect privacy, as you see, it didn't quite work out like that. However, from a privacy perspective, after the kinks are all worked out, Mega might have the potential to be great. Yet for right now, Mega needs to focus on stabilizing its service.
The folder never did upload, yet...and that 33KB file?
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Ms. Smith (not her real name) is a freelance writer and programmer with a special and somewhat personal interest in IT privacy and security issues. Smith has a diverse background in information technology, programming, web development, IT consulting, and information security. She focuses on the unique challenges of maintaining privacy and security, both for individuals and enterprises. She has worked as a journalist and has also penned many technical papers and guides covering various technologies. Smith is herself a self-described privacy and security freak.
Smith is an independent contractor and is not affiliated with any vendor that makes or sells information technology.
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