It may seem odd that the latest crusader for digital privacy is gregarious Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. He is making the rounds to promote his app Cyber Dust, telling media organizations he rethought privacy needs after his battle with the SEC over accusations of insider trading. He was acquitted in a jury trial.
A messaging app is only worthwhile if you have someone with whom to chat. The setup process for Cyber Dust lets you connect to social networks and scan your contacts for anyone already using the application, which feels a little awkward given that the app is so devoted to privacy.
Cyber Dust also mistakenly tells you that Android devices can’t take screen shots. More accurately, screenshots are disabled in most places of the app, such as the conversations (when attempting to take a screenshot, a notification pops up).
Setting up my contacts was rather inconsistent. I received a number of “Unable to send invitation” errors for SMS and email invites. The dearth of Cyber Dust users is another problem. Even though my Google contacts are filled with early adopters, only one had an active Cyber Dust account. An app is certainly going to take time to grow its user base, but the need to convert all one’s friends to Cyber Dust is unappealing in an already crowded and fragmented messaging space.
Like Snapchat, Cyber Dust’s Blast feature sends photos (Android users can draw on them) or emoji monkeys to a group of others. Nothing is as exciting as a notification that someone “has sent you a monkey.”
Cyber Dust also attempts to tap into its inner Twitter with celebrity accounts you can follow— of course Cuban is there as +BlogMaverick.
In a multitasking world, having messages that disappear after 30 seconds is more of a nuisance than a security feature. Too often I prefer to reference a past conversation or check an address that a friend sent me. Cyber Dust tries to resolve this by allowing you to pin messages for later reference, though deciding when to save conversations is extra cognitive task I usually don’t wish to exert.
Cyber Dust will probably work for those who have specific use cases in mind, ranging from business negotiations to NSFW conversations better left off the record. But you'll have to convince your friends and colleagues to start using it, first.
The need for more digital privacy is a serious issue, and companies like Facebook are pushing their own private messaging solutions. Cyber Dust comes far short of its lofty ambitions, joining a crowded field of messaging apps fighting to not save your messages.
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