Mark Cuban Thinks Your Friends Could Cost You Your Future
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Politics and Activism

Mark Cuban Thinks Your Friends Could Cost You Your Future

The Odyssey sits down with Mark Cuban to discuss protecting your online presence.

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Mark Cuban Thinks Your Friends Could Cost You Your Future
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If the recent celebrity iCloud hacking scandal teaches us anything, it’s that nothing digital is truly safe anymore – or is it?

Enter the new apps Cyber Dust and Xpire, backed by billionaire entrepreneur, Shark Tank investor, and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. Cyber Dust enables users to send truly temporary and self-deleting images and texts – according to the FAQ, messages on the Cyber Dust servers are never saved to a disk and are only stored in memory until they are delivered or expire – while Xpire is a tool that helps users take control of their social media presences by helping to delete and set time limits on Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr content.

I recently had the opportunity to ask Mark some questions about these apps, why he invested in them, and his views on the future of digital privacy:

Marilyn Yang (MY): Some of your recent investments have included the apps Cyber Dust and Xpire, which focus on protecting user privacy by deleting messages à la Snapchat and old social media posts, respectively. Moving forward, do you see privacy as something that becomes increasingly a personal responsibility rather than something that should be protected from outside forces, such as the law or government? And why? 
Mark Cuban (MC): You are responsible for your own digital footprint. Your future, no matter what your age is, depends on your being able to know exactly what you have published online or in messages. Without control, you are at risk for anyone creating any image they want of you on social media or elsewhere.

MY: Why should college students in particular download Cyber Dust and Xpire?
MC: The minute you hit “send” on any SMS/Text, any Snap, Tweet or any digital media, you lose ownership of it. But you don’t lose responsibility for it. Your closest friend could mess with you and tweet one of your texts, and from there, it could take on a life of its own. It could cost you a job, a relationship or worse. You have no idea what could happen with any iMessage you send. It could come back to haunt you years later.  

So the question becomes why would you ever send a message or post something on social media knowing it could live on forever. Do you want the things you say as a freshman in college or while you were in high school being posted or reposted after you graduate and are looking for a job?      

You have ZERO ability to control any of it unless you use a tool like Cyber Dust for messaging or Xpire to put an expiration time on your tweets and other social media. And Xpire is important to allow you to go back and delete all those social media posts that you have forgotten about but could come back to haunt you.     

MY: In the case of Xpire, developer Jesse Stauffer was the one who initially reached out to you. What was it in his initial email or note that caught your eye? Do you have any advice for startups cold emailing or otherwise contacting and pitching to potential investors?  
MC: It was unique. It wasn’t a copy of something else. It wasn’t the Uber of something or the Tinder of something. On top of that, it served an important purpose: protecting people's privacy and future.    

MY: On a similar note, what makes or breaks an in-person pitch such as those you see in Shark Tank?  
MC:Not being original. Not being prepared. Not being committed and willing to work. 

MY: Cyber Dust’s functions of self-deleting messages and photos are similar to those of Snapchat. How are the two apps differentiated? Do they have different target audiences?
MC: They aren’t the same at all. Snapchat doesn’t truly delete anything. You can get an app to recover anything you send or receive on Snapchat. It is basically for middle school kids sending pictures and videos. Once you get out of middle school, your privacy matters. You don’t want everyone or anyone able to monitor what you are discussing with your friends.

Unlike Snapchat, Cyber Dust truly deletes your messages. They can’t be recovered by anyone, ever – the exact opposite of Snapchat. Snapchat is crayons on pictures. Cyber Dust is keyboards for content. You can have real conversations on Cyber Dust. It’s far more like a private, fast, free version of texting. Plus, we have a blast feature that is truly unique. You can send pictures, messages, maps, and more to one friend, a group you have created, or to all your friends and followers in a single push of a button [and] all with complete privacy.  

MY: Moving forward, how do you see apps such as Cyber Dust and Snapchat, which recently received a $10 billion valuation, being monetized for their large user bases?
MC: We have a lot of ways to monetize at Cyber Dust that will be built around commerce, but for end users, Cyber Dust will be free forever.

MY: What is your view on the recent celebrity-targeted Apple iCloud hacking and photo scandal? How safe is cloud storage?
MC: You always have to be careful. It’s not hard to hack into any service. That’s why Cyber Dust is important – you don’t want to be compromised because of what technology you use.

MY: Do you see any way to discourage hacking, or does it lie with the individual to be more cautious about protecting or not uploading sensitive digital information?
MC: As long as there are passwords, there will be people trying to crack them.

MY: As a broad concern, where do you see the issue of privacy progressing in the future as technology continues to become more and more sophisticated and collect more and more personal user data? How do you view the trade-off between better adapting to specific customer needs and the need to collect more data about each specific customer?
MC: I think you have to be careful. There are new tools, and Cyber Dust will offer some in the future, that will allow you to take complete control of your data and tell commerce sites what you want without having to have them track you. It will change. Consumers just have to be aware and careful.

MY: Should social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook be more proactive about deleting their data permanently or at least better helping users do so?
MC: It’s a Catch 22 for them. They need as much data as they can get in order to sell ads. Look at your Facebook newsfeed: it went from being all about your friends and now is all about who buys advertising to reach you. Facebook has some real trust issues, and I don’t see those changing in the short term.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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