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Post Snowden World Drives “Zero Knowledge” Bitcoin Payments

The Cloud Storage industry's highly secure “Zero Knowledge” solutions are rapidly growing in popularity, and most have come to the conclusion that Bitcoin is necessary for their offering.

Cloud storage, whether it be for backups, syncing devices, or sharing data with trusted parties, is becoming common and useful in our daily lives. For those of us that have more than one connected device, a drive in the cloud could be indispensable.

However, in the wake of Edward Snowden’s revelations, privacy concerns have left a sour taste in many users’ mouths. Snowden revealed that some providers, like Dropbox, are "hostile to privacy," referring to the storage company’s lack of encryption and willingness to share personal files with authorities, and perhaps other parties, such as advertisers.

At the time, Snowden famously advised the world to use “Zero-Knowledge” private  cloud storage, specifically endorsing a cloud storage solution named Spideroak.

Edward Snowden FOPF 2014

"Spideroak has structured their system in such a way you can store all of your information on them with the same sort of features that Dropbox does, but they literally had no access to the content. So while they can be compelled to turn it over, the law enforcement agencies still have to go to a judge and get a warrant to actually get your encryption key from you."

  • Edward Snowden

Encryption alone isn’t enough for many privacy-minded people. Zero-Knowledge Privacy (ZKP) services have been popping up to fulfill the promise made by encryption to protect the privacy of data. Using open source code as promoted by the Zero-Knowledge Privacy Foundation, when such services properly implement ZKP standards, anyone can be sure that they and they alone have access to their own data in the cloud using these services.

At the time of Snowden’s endorsement, the only mainstream-ready ZKP service was Chicago-based Spideroak, and their business immediately boomed. In the remainder of 2014, the company signed up over 1 Million users. Several other large companies have also appeared since, offering a similar ZKP service.

Sync is the most recent service to do so, and on Wednesday the Ontario-based company announced they are now accepting bitcoin payments.

Sync Safe

“, the 100% private cloud storage and file sharing platform with over 100,000 users, announced today they now accept Bitcoin as a payment method, via BitPay. With Bitcoin, our customers can enjoy absolute privacy in the cloud for both their data and payments."

  • Sync

Launched as a proof of concept in July 2013, Sync’s ZKP platform is now used by over 100,000 individuals and businesses. This growth, along with the growth of Spideroak and the other ZKP services, demonstrates the significant awareness and demand for data privacy protection in the cloud.

Using bitcoin to pay for ZKP services makes a lot of difference for those who truly care about their privacy. Since no personal information is attached to a bitcoin transaction by default, it does not require giving up personally identifiable information during signup of any web service.

"Protecting customer data is our number one priority here at Sync. As it should be for any business storing sensitive customer information in the cloud," said Sync’s CEO, Thomas Savundra. "And while we continue to offer traditional forms of payment such as credit card, Bitcoin is a win for our customers, and a win for privacy in general."

Despite a few critics who claim that ZKP is not quite as safe as advertised, using bitcoin to pay for a well-vetted ZKP service like Sync or Spideroak is a means to protect a user’s personal information. However, Spideroak only briefly accepted bitcoin as a test in 2013, and doesn’t offer the option on their site today.

This could makes Sync a more attractive ZKP service for bitcoiners and other privacy advocates. Sync offers five Gigabytes of private cloud storage for free, forever, with upgraded plans up to two Terabytes for $98 per year. By contrast, Spideroak’s free service only lasts 60 days and their largest plan, at five Terabytes, costs $279 per year, payable by credit card only.

There is also a ZKP service that is more popular than these two. According to Alexa rankings Kim Dotcom’s New Zealand-based Mega is one of the planet’s top 450 most popular websites. The site provides every visitor 50 Gigabytes of free drive space forever, while having the most intuitive interface imaginable.

Mega Alexa Ranking

In addition, Dotcom is a huge bitcoin supporter, proudly offering bitcoin payment options for all of his products. Mega’s upgrade plans can be considered expensive, as a four Terabyte plan goes for approximately $400 annually. It is also not ideal for a Backup solution, having a user interface designed specifically for file sharing.

Switzerland-based pCloud also accepts bitcoin payments. The company doesn’t enable ZKP by default, but for $4 a month they’ll turn their “Crypto” service on for you which does. Their base plan is a free 20 Gigabytes forever, but without paying for the Crypto upgrade it’s very similar to an unencrypted Dropbox account. pCloud’s largest personal plan is only one Terabyte for about $95 per year.

For those who don’t require the super-high levels of privacy that Zero-Knowledge solutions offer, but prefer more security than Dropbox, there are a few bitcoin-accepting solutions that aren’t ZKP.

Backupvault is a London-based data backup-focused cloud service which announced they accept bitcoin in December. They also claim to offer 256bit encryption on all data as well, starting at $10 per month.

There is also Datashell, a UK-based cloud storage service that is dedicated to offering bitcoin and litecoin payment options. Although they have no free level of service, Datashell’s unique offering places no limits at all on space nor bandwidth consumed. Instead of charging for space, their three levels of service, starting at about $55 per year, limits the number of devices you can backup or share cloud drive service with. To turn on or off the 256-bit encryption is an option at Datashell, free of charge.

Percentage of Personal Data In The Cloud

If ever there was a unique use-case for bitcoin, privately paying for a service like ZKP storage is a great example. As more of our data moves online, the importance of ZKP storage services will grow. People using these services may become familiar with the benefits of using bitcoin to help keep their data private.


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