In January, I made a New Yearâs resolution: To write more regularly in a diary.
My inspiration came from AnaÃ¯s Nin, my favorite writer and a prolific diarist who kept a daily journal from age 11 until her death at age 74. âKeeping a diary all my life helped me to discover some basic elements essential to the vitality of writing,â she once said. âIn the Diary I only wrote of what interested me genuinely, what I felt most strongly at the moment, and I found this fervor, this enthusiasm produced a vividness which often withered in the formal work.â
I loved this idea, but writing in a physical journal fills me with dread. As an obnoxious millennial stereotype, I do the majority of my daily writing on the computer. Iâve written approximately four checks in my life, and I rarely write letters. Why would I move backwards into analog for my daily journaling practice?
âIâve written approximately four checks in my life, and I rarely write letters. Why would I move backwards into analog for my daily journaling practice?â
Over the past few months, Iâve started collecting stray thoughts in the notes app on my phone and in longer documents in my personal Gmail and Google Docs
I did this hesitantly. As much as I liked the convenience of a digital journal, the idea of pouring my most private thoughts into Googleâs massive data trove gave me anxiety.
The policy also suggests it uses both automated systems and humans to analyze your content, meaning that people could literally be reading my diary. The Google spokesman said the company would ask for express permission from a user before letting a human read the content of a private Google Doc.
Still, I am paranoid about my personal data. I discovered Cryptee, an encrypted digital center for photos, files, documents, and notes. The service runs on your browser, just like Google Docs, and is free for the first 100 megabytes. After that it is $3 per month for each additional 10 gigabyte.
Founded by software developer John Ozbay 18 months ago, the program uses âmilitary-gradeâ encryption to keep all files private. Not even the company itself can see your data. Only the user, the person who holds the encryption key (your password) can see what is saved with Cryptee.
Ozbay said he first came up with the idea while living as an immigrant in the U.S. when a series of data privacy scandals got him feeling like a âtin foil hat guy,â getting increasingly paranoid about how much information companies and the government hold on us.
He moved to Estonia, in part because of its strong privacy laws, and started the business with his own savings. In June he advertised Cryptee in a Reddit post and got 20,000 users overnight. He said, âThere are no easy alternatives if you want to keep your data secure.â
Is Google the worst place to keep a diary?
The data may then be used to create customized search results, personalized ads, and other features. Writing about intimate emotional details makes this prospect more alarming. Facebook
Â apologized after the social network allowed third-party app Cambridge Analytica to manipulate users news feed and influence political campaigns.
Alternatives to Google
Evernote, a note-taking app, does not automatically encrypt data in notes. Users, however, can encrypt certain sections by right clicking within the Mac or Windows app for Evernote and selecting âencrypt selected text.â
Evernote is $3.99 per month for a basic subscription, which includes 60 megabytes of uploads per month. A premium subscription, which adds 10 gigabytes of new downloads per month, is $7.99. (Evernote did not respond to request for comment).
Cryptee isnât the only privacy-minded documents app. Turtl is a private platform built with a similar mission. It is currently free to use and, like Cryptee, it does not store user passwords or information and is protected by both your password and your cryptographic key. It is available on Windows, Mac, and Android, but not iOS.
For a simple, browser-based encrypted app, Protected Text offers simple note-taking features. To use it, go to ProtectedText.com and create a password to protect it if it isnât claimed yet.
Safety from government eyes
Â stores data on its iCloud, which means the company can turn over your data to the FBI if investigators ask for it, which it did in February 2016 to comply with an investigation being carried out by the Federal Bureau of Investigation regarding a mass shooting in San Bernadino, California.
Because Cryptee does not store any unencrypted data, it cannot be asked to give it to state entities. In other words, there is no way for anyone â the government, Cryptee, or advertisers â to read what is kept in your journal. It uses Advanced Encryption System 256 (AES256), the most popular unbroken encryption system used today.
Being based in Estonia puts Cryptee outside the â14 eyes jurisdiction,â an international surveillance alliance of European Union and North American countries, making it less likely it will be targeted with demands for data.
For super-secret documents, Cryptee offers âghost folders,â which allows you to make a folder disappear from your account so that it can only be opened by typing its name exactly into the search bar. So even if you are forced to give a third party the keys to your account, your most sensitive data will still be safe, Ozbay said.
Cryptee is a browser-based system like Google Docs and is not available in the iOS App Store, but can be used on the home page of iOS and Android devices. Ozbay said he did this so there would be no evidence of the app ever being downloaded from the App Store. Deleting it from your home screen erases any trace you ever used it.
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