Private internet owner mulling plans for privacy suite in 2020

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TechRadar Pro caught up with Daniel Sagi, the Chief Operating Officer of Private Internet, the company formerly known as KAPE, over a coffee to discuss the future of privacy, the acquisition of Private Internet Access, what it takes to manage three VPN brands concurrently and what they have in store for 2020.

1. Your company decided to adopt the Private Internet name, why is that?

As part of the recent partnership with Private Internet Access, we decided together with Private Internet's management that this name reflects perfectly the way we see the combined company's vision moving forward. Private Internet is positioned to lead the movement for a private and secure online experience for all. The internet as we now know it is a place where data is harvested and identities do not belong to the users but are traded by privileged few. Private Internet changes that. The new name also reflects the fact that we will now be offering four new privacy products to our product suite.

2. Kape’s previous incarnation was in the advertising technology space. What can you tell PIA users to assuage their concerns about trustworthiness and safety.

In the last few years, we have consistently provided a growing range of services around privacy and security to our customers. We have demonstrated an unwavering commitment to the privacy and security of our customers. We were the first to publish a transparency report, we keep no logs and have been working tirelessly to continue and provide additional products which secure our customers' digital life. 

One of the most significant moves our combined entity is taking is the road map to creating the first verifiable privacy company. This comprehensive plan which we have started implementing we hope will lead the way to other companies in this space to follow suite and create a “no need for trust” echo system where all our stakeholders will be able to verify how our system works and handles information. Our plan includes two components: 

1. Open Sourcing our desktop client app; starting next week, our desktop client code will be open-sourced and available for all to review. This will allow our customers and partners to verify exactly what we are doing, and we believe any respectable privacy company should follow suit. 

2. We're building an internal roadmap to create a transparent and verifiable infrastructure, in which no one, including ourselves, is permitted access to the servers through which VPN traffic flows. This will be a community-led effort. And with this step, we are looking to lead the way in the industry and hope others will follow suit.

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3. Where do you see the privacy industry now moving

As the global Internet grows and society gets more connected, we will see an increased and urgent need for privacy solutions for both individuals and businesses across the globe. We need to make sure that we continue to innovate with the same integrity as now in order to build the tools that will help keep the Internet users of the future safe. And that is where we are focusing our efforts; on creating systems that do not require trust and are verifiable and on products that will ensure privacy and security across the whole online experience.

Here are some of the products we are launching in 2020: Plus Ultra, a software that speeds up internet connections; LibreBrowser, a completely private browser; and, a private and encrypted search engine and a private storage product. All designed to provide a complete private internet experience.

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4. Why did you buy PIA and why now?

We found that PIA was the best partner to help take our vision to the next level. Other companies have good products but they don’t have the principles and leadership in the privacy space that PIA has. They care about privacy, have amazing technology, an amazing brand, and they already built four new privacy products that we plan to launch together. This is the best company to partner with to lead the market. 

Timing is more to do with the time it took us to make sure that we are the right partners for each other. We took our time in getting to know the team and the tech, it is a process that started two years ago. WE both wanted to make sure we share the same values and are aligned on the direction we are going to take the company together. The fight for privacy is getting some tough and powerful adversaries, and it’s going to take a bigger and more powerful company to fight the battle against anti encryption and censorship. 

5. You now own three VPN providers. What approach are you going to use to make sure that they don't compete with each other. What are you planning for PIA, Cyberghost and Zenmate in 2020?

Each company in the group has its own voice and attracts a different type of customer. Inevitably, they will sometimes compete. But a little friendly competition can act as a big motivator for improvement. 

However in the grand scheme of things, we aren't just investing in a single brand - we are investing in providing privacy to the world. On all fronts, we will continue to develop our products in the different markets; we are constantly adding features and new products to increase the privacy and security of our users with emphasis on ease of use and accessibility. We have some big news coming up soon. Don’t want to spoil anything just yet, but do keep an eye on their websites.

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6. PIA has invested heavily in open source and is a major contributor to a number of privacy initiatives. Will that continue going forward?

Yes. We will continue with PIA’s commendable efforts to protect privacy, open source and freedom on the internet worldwide and will continue donating to organizations that make this a reality.

PIA is committed to the continued support of open source; firstly, we are going to Open Source our PIA desktop client app - starting next week, all of our desktop client code will be open-sourced and available for all to review. This will allow our customers and partners to verify exactly what we are doing, and we believe any respectable privacy company should follow suit.

Secondly, in PIA we believe privacy can be achieved only when the need to trust any one company is eliminated. This explains why we are launching Zero Access - this step is designed to eliminate the need for trust by creating a trust proof methodology. In effect, we are creating a system where external unrelated parties will be constantly auditing our servers insofar as to confirm that no user data is being stored.

7. The VPN market has been consolidating lately, primarily driven by PC Mag's owner, J2Global, leaving only three major independent brands out there. Do you see this trend continuing? Do you expect big security players (Bitdefender, Avast) to be more aggressive in the VPN market?

We do see that as the level of service we provide is getting higher, growing speeds, access and location are improving and scale is important. So the large independent players such as ourselves have the advantage. We are a privacy-first company, we have seen the big security players trying to enter the market but find it hard to compete. We are always three steps ahead of them as we come from the privacy space and this is our core. 

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