There are many pieces of information about ourselves that we don’t want disclosed to strangers online. Sometimes we don’t want our real-world identity to be revealed. We want our payment information to only be accessible when needed. We don’t want our web-browsing or search history to be public.
This desire for privacy extends into our online commerce as well. What we buy, who we buy it from, what we sell, who we sell it to, what we paid, how we paid… the list goes on. Yet the major online commerce platforms today don’t give you privacy. They require your identity and payment information to even use them, and then monitor all of your activity on their platform, collecting that data for themselves or to sell to (or be stolen by) others.
Privacy in Commerce
We describe Haven as “a mobile app which enables people to shop, chat and send cryptocurrencies privately.”
Privacy is a pretty heavy concept that encompasses many ideas though and we know it’s easy to miscommunicate it. We want to avoid that so this article explains exactly what privacy means when we use it, and how Haven achieves it.
Privacy is a person’s ability to control the information they share about themselves and with whom.
Eric Hughes, author of A Cypherpunk’s Manifesto, described it well. He said “Privacy is not secrecy. A private matter is something one doesn’t want the whole world to know, but a secret matter is something one doesn’t want anybody to know. Privacy is the power to selectively reveal oneself to the world.”
How can this be avoided?
By using a platform which isn’t owned by any company or organization.
Haven connects you directly and privately to other people. Only the people you trade with know about your transactions. You don’t have a login or an account because your information lives right on your mobile device, not a computer far away owned by a big company.
It’s like using cash with a friend in person. Whether you’re splitting a pizza or buying their used Playstation, what you’re doing is between the two of you. You can do the same thing with Haven, just on your mobile device from anywhere you have an internet connection.
Here are a few unique things about Haven which make this privacy possible:
1. Local Data
Haven doesn’t rely on third parties to store your data. Instead, it stores it on the device itself. Your cryptocurrency keys, the details of your purchases and sales, shipping information (if entered into the app at all), and chat messages are all stored locally on your mobile device.
By storing data locally you aren’t trusting a company to keep the information safe from malicious parties looking to steal it. The fewer places where data exists, the smaller the opportunity for it to be abused.
There is one drawback to this approach. It requires users to create backups to prevent their data from being lost if their device has a problem or is lost or stolen. When all your data is local, that means if you have no backups then your data would be gone forever. The Haven app instructs users on how to make backups.
2. Peer-to-Peer Network
Most ecommerce platforms still work much like brick-and-mortar retail stores. They have a property you visit where they make it convenient to access products and you can browse and select what you like. Online marketplaces effectively charge all visitors to their property by taking a cut from payments made within their “walls” and by collecting all the data generated by buyers and sellers alike.
Haven takes a completely different approach to online commerce by using a peer-to-peer network to connect buyers and sellers together.
Instead of meeting on a retail store’s property, Haven users connect directly to each other in a way that’s more like visiting each other’s homes or small businesses. Online this is called a peer-to-peer network. The Haven app is built on top of the OpenBazaar network which allows people to connect with others but avoid giving up their data to one large organization.
All messages and transactions between users on the network are end-to-end encrypted, meaning that chat messages and the details of transactions are only visible to the people involved in the trade. Not even the developers of the application can access that information.
Haven uses cryptocurrencies for payments, which don’t require tying your payment method to your identity like PayPal or credit cards do. You also aren’t trusting anyone else with your money; Haven has a built-in wallet that stores the keys to control your cryptocurrency directly on your mobile device.
Cryptocurrencies allow you to send and receive money online without being dependent on banks or payment processing companies. However, most cryptocurrencies aren’t built to guarantee a user’s privacy. While they don’t force a user to disclose their identity, the transactions themselves are publicly viewable, and if a user originally bought the funds at an exchange which does require identity (or cashes them out there) then they can be identified by those who have access to that information ( e.g. exchanges and law enforcement).
Again, the fewer places your data exists, the smaller the opportunity for it to be abused!
Trust in Haven
Unlike the Amazons and Alibabas of the world, most activity within Haven doesn’t rely on trusting anyone else to keep your privacy safe. You store your own data locally and you only share it with people you choose on the peer-to-peer network. However, there are a few places which do require some trust in an external party.
Haven was created by OB1. Our goal is to give people the ability to engage in online commerce privately. There are some aspects of commerce that do require information from outside sources and requesting such data can give those providers some information about the user. OB1 is a source for multiple pieces of information within Haven.
OB1 provides a search engine for discovering products, users, and social posts.
2. OB1 Verified Moderators
We offer a service for identifying OB1 Verified Moderators who have been vetted by the company and are more likely to be reliable than non-verified moderators.
3. External Data
We offer up pricing information on the various fiat and cryptocurrency prices. We also provide information about the blockchains for the various cryptocurrencies in the Haven wallet.
OB1 also runs some infrastructure which helps the network function, though others can run this infrastructure themselves if they choose to.
Because of our infrastructure and services we’re able to gain some information about Haven users such as IP addresses, Node IDs, public cryptocurrency address information, and other details. OB1 doesn’t track this information. After retaining it for a short period for debugging purposes, it’s deleted. We never use data to attempt to identify users or sell the data. We simply delete it.
Fortunately, because Haven is built using cryptocurrencies, stores data locally, and uses a peer-to-peer network, there is little data for OB1 to collect even if we did desire to do so. Just based on the design of the network itself, users are already assured far more privacy than in traditional online commerce platforms.
We are always looking for ways to make Haven even more private. If you have suggestions, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Are you interested in taking your privacy back in your online shopping? Follow along with the upcoming launch of this great application on Twitter and by getting on the waitlist below.