As we let the Internet into our personal lives,

we’re still figuring out how to keep out of trouble.

Have you ever sent someone a picture of yourself naked? It takes a lot of trust to believe that the other person will keep it private if you break up or your relationship changes. On top of that, you have to trust whatever service you sent the photo with (Facebook Messenger? Snapchat? iMessage?). Will they keep a copy on their server? How many engineers on their team have access to it? Will they ever get hacked? Who, exactly, is going to see this photo?

Depending on who you are and what you do for a living, that photo could be embarrassing or it might be career-ending. Judging a partner is hard enough, but the ins and outs of security can be deeply technical, so how does anyone know which companies to trust?

Your information matters even if your photos are fully clothed.

Our naked photos aren’t the only thing we’re trusting Internet companies to keep safe. These companies know a lot about where we go, who we talk to, and what we’re saying. Some of them know our credit card numbers, our addresses, our social security numbers, and our medical records. They’re gate-keepers for event invitations and chats with our friends.

That information matters even if your photos are fully clothed. To use these services, we have to trust them to keep our data safe. Every time we browse the web, we are passively weighing and accepting the risk that anything we say or do there may be public. This is the new digital trust.

Security can be deeply technical and relative, so how does anyone know which companies they can trust?

Digital trust has let us move a lot of businesses online, but it’s also helped create completely new products that weren’t possible offline. Bitcoin is Internet money that doesn’t use any single institution, like a bank, to guarantee its value. Instead, Bitcoin asks you to trust the economic incentives of an anonymous Internet crowd to keep the network up and running. It’s a radical new framework that means no government can inflate, deflate, or revoke the currency. But if your Bitcoin gets stolen, there’s no one who can help you get it back.

The critical question for each of the companies working on Bitcoin today is whether or not they will be able to earn your trust. Can they get you to believe in the new framework, and offer enough security that your money feels safe? Well, that’s a hard decision to make. Welcome to the new era! 

We talk about how we’re living more of our lives online. That also means we’re trusting the Internet with our lives.

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