back to article Want to keep in contact with friends and family without having to sell your personal data?

It's become a phrase repeated so frequently, it almost feels like a cliché: if you're not paying for the product, you are the product. The truth is that hundreds of millions of us put up with the unpleasant fact that chunks of our personal lives – our photos and emails and whereabouts and contacts – are combined and packaged …

  1. Champ

    Well I'm sold

    Assuming they fix most of the described issues, I'd buy 3 of them. Maybe more. Er, assuming they'll also sell them in the UK.

    1. m0rt Silver badge

      Re: Well I'm sold

      Thread hijack....

      The Register IS the news today: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-41337218

      I never knew the CEO was called Linus. Fitting.

      1. myhandler

        Re: Well I'm sold

        That was on BBC Business Live last week - early morning business items on the news channel.

  2. Lysenko

    Hmmmm...

    Looks like a variation of the Amstrad Em@iler idea and probably destined for equal levels of popularity.

    1. Adrian 4 Silver badge

      Re: Hmmmm...

      Unless they've got it right. In which case Zuckerborg will buy them.

    2. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: Hmmmm...

      @Lysenko

      Looks like a variation of the Amstrad Em@iler idea

      Wait till I check my patent portfolio says Lord Sugar

  3. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    WTF?

    Sounds good as a prototype, but not ready for sale yet?

    But actually plonking down cold hard cash for what's actually available now with a promise of "It'll be fixed Real Soon Now."

    I think not.

    Which is too bad as I like the way they think. Actual knobs, Choosing voice over video (seriously, once you've seen who it is and they are talking and not showing you stuff is it that helpful?)

    The worry is this is down to underspec'd processing power. The SW can be fixed, but that's if the horsepower isn't there to begin with what are they going to do?

    1. AndrueC Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: Sounds good as a prototype, but not ready for sale yet?

      Actual knobs

      I suppose that's an improvement on the virtual knobs usually found on the web.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Who handles the video streams and pictures, and how?

    It's all jolly well claiming that it doesn't use personal details, but they're in the US and their privacy policy is the first I have seen, ever, that is so one-sided it contains not a single word about protecting YOUR details and data, which gives you a clear idea of their priorities. Hint: it's not you, the customer.

    No, seriously, best look quickly because I'm betting they'll change that as soon as they see this post. I already dumped it to a PDF to act as an example for the next time I lecture people about privacy.

    On the plus side, you could say that makes them more honest, but it is the first time I have seen that, ever. Not a single word or even an attempt at pretending they care about customer privacy.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Who handles the video streams and pictures, and how?

      CHANGES TO THIS PRIVACY POLICY

      We may change this privacy policy. If we make any changes, we will change the Last Updated date above.

      There is no Last Updated date, either above or below.

    2. msknight Silver badge

      Re: Who handles the video streams and pictures, and how?

      Yes but... what actual details will they have? Other than your name and address to ship the thing, one-time banking details, presumably the thing will be direct connenct (unlike what Micro$hite did to Skrape) and your channel ID... minimal personal data ... potentially... depending on how they configure this stuff.

      1. MacroRodent Silver badge

        Re: Who handles the video streams and pictures, and how?

        What information`? Well, the way I read the policy, they potentially can get anything the Loop shows: "We automatically log information about you and your computer. For example, when visiting our Site, we log your computer operating system type, browser type, browser language, the website you visited before browsing to our Site, pages you viewed, how long you spent on a page, access times, IP address, and information about your use of and actions on our Site." - The Loop box is of course a kind of computer.

      2. Raumkraut

        Re: Who handles the video streams and pictures, and how?

        Yes but... what actual details will they have?

        I didn't go digging deep, but from their FAQ:

        Does Loop store my photos and videos for me?

        Yes, Loop backs up all your content in the cloud and provides up to 2gb of free storage.

        also:

        How do I know my photos and videos are safe?

        All Loop data is transmitted over a secure and encrypted connection so your content is always safe and private.

        Since they only discuss transmission, I think it's fair to assume that all your information would be stored more or less in the clear on their servers, for easier analysis and monetisation.

        So yeah, it seems like you'd still be selling your personal data.

        1. msknight Silver badge

          Re: Who handles the video streams and pictures, and how?

          "So yeah, it seems like you'd still be selling your personal data."

          ...Well, they know where they can stick that then!

          We are back to the traditional problem... how to keep the lights on for a service, by only selling one-time-purchase devices. That's the interesting nut to crack.

          1. VinceH Silver badge

            Re: Who handles the video streams and pictures, and how?

            "We are back to the traditional problem... how to keep the lights on for a service, by only selling one-time-purchase devices. That's the interesting nut to crack."

            Going back to the privacy policy:

            INFORMATION YOU GIVE US.

            We collect your name, postal address, email address as well as other information you directly give us on our Site.

            INFORMATION WE GET FROM OTHERS.

            We may get information about you from other sources. We may add this to information we get from this Site.

            And:

            We may share personal information as follows:

            We may share personal information with your consent. For example, you may let us share personal information with others for their own marketing uses. Those uses will be subject to their privacy policies.

            Yeah, it says "with your consent" - but even if it's nice and easy to decline now, when they feel the pinch and need that income, it may become less so.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Who handles the video streams and pictures, and how?

        Yes but... what actual details will they have?

        They will place a video camera and a microphone in your house, controlled by their software, and they get access to all your pictures. Now ask yourself again if you're comfortable with a privacy policy that only talks about protecting *them*, not you..

    3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Who handles the video streams and pictures, and how?

      " their privacy policy is the first I have seen, ever, that is so one-sided it contains not a single word about protecting YOUR details and data"

      OTOH "We take customers' privacy extremely seriously" is so frequently trotted out in the wake of blatant failure to do just that that it has become a de facto admission of guilt so maybe that's why they avoided it.

  5. Dan 55 Silver badge

    It really needs to be sold globally.

    If not, um, what's the point.

    The advantage is it's granny proof.

    But for everyone else, we just need the software, instead of having yet another device kicking round taking up space and eventually landfill.

    Perhaps they could bundle the device with a year or two's service and access by software only from x other devices. Someone could pay a subscription after that to keep the devices going. Grannies with Loops would always have access, they just couldn't talk to anyone else with their own devices if they don't keep the subscription going... how's that for corporate emotional blackmail.

    1. Teiwaz Silver badge

      Re: It really needs to be sold globally.

      The advantage is it's granny proof.

      'Granny proof' is that the same or similar to 'water proof'.

      Does it say to how many (feet?) it's proof to, or just mild splashes (of tea, I assume).

      1. Esme

        Re: It really needs to be sold globally.

        @Telwaz - give one o'they boxes to me, and I'll show yer 'Granny proof', eheheh...

  6. jake Silver badge

    Eh?

    And here I thought I was already in contact with friends and family without having to sellgive away anybody's personal data.

    Folks, it may come as a shock to you, but communicating without anti-social media is actually just as easy as with it. Really. We've been doing it for decades. Try it, you might like it.

    1. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

      Re: Eh?

      Yawn. You mean I can write a letter, perhaps, or make a phone call? Zip and email some photos perhaps?

      Video calls mean Skype or Facetime. Practical photo sharing is going to require something more than email. All are going to require an account of some sort.

      Personally I love this product, I can see the idea behind it and I would certainly buy three (in the UK), subject to a few key points:

      1. I know they're making their money from hardware, subscriptions, optional extras or storage costs for media, not from selling me as a marketing opportunity to all and sundry.

      2. It's got a good noice-cancelling mic and a very, very fucking loud speaker. Old people have bad hearing, doubly so when there are screaming children (unnecessary adjective, all children are screaming). If I'm going to sit across a table from this with my kids talking to my parents, I don't want every second sentence to be "sorry, I missed that".

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Surveillance capitalism in retro styling

    - California

    - facebook, instagram, dropbox integration

    - $3,000,000 first round funding

    What do you think the chances are that this is any different to every other piece of garbage that crawls out of California? Under current law not spying on you is leaving money on the table.

    1. Lysenko

      Re: Surveillance capitalism in retro styling

      The industry has been dancing around the Telescreen for years and now they've added the knobs and leather handles of authentic 1950's styling. The devil, of course, will be in the software.

  8. Kevin Fairhurst

    Sounds tempting...

    especially if you can get a shared google calendar on there...

    (of course, for about the same money you can roll your own with a Pi, camera & a touchscreen monitor, but it won't look as nice)

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Sounds tempting...

      "for about the same money you can roll your own with a Pi, camera & a touchscreen monitor, but it won't look as nice"

      My reaction exactly. And for the price of an HDMI cable you could hook it up to a bigger display. The knob on the side (as opposed to the knob who's selling your data) is presumably presented to the software as a mouse.

      Given the number of people selling boxes to house your Pi even the appearance could be a quickly solved problem.

      1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Unhappy

        "Given the number of people selling boxes to house your Pi even the appearance "

        Actually that's sort of the point.

        It's the convenience of the bundle that you're buying.

        What they get is a) Your money b) A lifetime supply of your data to chomp on for free.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    a small number of family and friends

    facebook is so hugely popular not because it connects you with a "small number of family and friends", but because it presses the "right" button of i-mentality, i.e. narcism mixed with lack of self-confidence (and it fuels it):

    1) Look at ME, world!!!

    2) give me a virtual pat on the back, tell me how AWESOME I AM!!!!

    ...

    NOW, you can downvote me all you want, I DON'T CARE...

    ...

    well, maybe a little bit...

    It would be nice to if there was AT LEAST one upvote, you know. So that I know I AM RIGHT, because, like, I'm right, right?

    ...

    please...?

    Just one tiny upvote?

    ...

    oh, does ANYONE out there LIKE ME?!

    :(((((((((

    THIS IS THE VIRTUAL END OF THE WORLD FOR ME!!!!

    etc., etc

    p.s. of course, there's "this", and there's some useful keeping in touch (although being a refusenick, I don't know how useful)

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: a small number of family and friends

      The Man from Mars, is that you? (That's a compliment BTW)

  10. gsf333

    Have the team that designed the O2 Joggler come back for a version 2? This sounds like it's destined to have the same demise with crate loads of brand new ones dumped in a skip never to see the light of day ever again.

    1. DropBear Silver badge

      Hey, it might go the Chumby route - a failure as a product, but moderately pursued as a DIY platform once it's officially abandoned...

  11. Warm Braw Silver badge

    The video conferencing is pixilated

    It certainly would be in my family. Perhaps it needs a gin o'clock cut-out.

    1. Steve Jackson

      Re: The video conferencing is pixilated

      Sorry, that jarred like a constantly buffering stream; pixelated.

  12. Robin

    Get Out of the Way of My Lawn

    It actually looks and feels like the kind of space-age 21st-century that was enthusiastically shown to families in the 1970s, along with the self-cleaning laundry basket, automatic lawn mover, robot butler and flying car.

    I'm fed up of having to move my lawn myself* all the time, I can't wait until it does it itself!

    * I say myself, my robot monkey butler actually does it.

    1. John Presland

      Re: Get Out of the Way of My Lawn

      Mine is mowed very effectively by a robot made by Husqvarna.

    2. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: Get Out of the Way of My Lawn

      I just saw an entire American football field move itself today. Real turf too! Rolled itself right out of the stadium! So it can't be too far away for us plebes.

      No joke. It's real. Atlanta I think?

    3. jake Silver badge

      Re: Get Out of the Way of My Lawn

      I have a couple of flocks of lawn movers. They use lawn as input, encrypt it, and download the encrypted product elsewhere, under a cloud. Decryption involves wringing out the cloud and time, but sure enough, the lawn is restored exactly where the encrypted product was downloaded.

  13. Wiltshire

    Sounds like a job for a Raspberry Pi + 10 inch display?

  14. Inspector71

    Perhaps I'm the only one left

    Pen, sheet of paper, envelope, stamp.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Perhaps I'm the only one left

      At 65p just for the stamp, you probably are.

    2. James O'Shea Silver badge

      Re: Perhaps I'm the only one left

      nope. I use those too. They still work and require surprisingly little in the way of personal info to use.

      1. Korev Silver badge

        Re: Perhaps I'm the only one left

        If you're going really old school and have to lick the stamp and envelope then the recipient will have a nice lot of your DNA...

      2. pklausner
        Stop

        Re: Perhaps I'm the only one left

        > They still work and require surprisingly little

        > in the way of personal info to use

        >

        Think again.

        Modern automated sorting machines must scan the recipient's address to do their job. While they are at it, the may as well scan the sender. Ah. And store the records. Now, they wouldn't do that, would they?

        Well, here a German Post competitor was caught with the fingers in the sweet data cookie jar: http://www.tagesspiegel.de/wirtschaft/postfirma-pin-mail-hortet-millionen-briefdaten/7795758.html

        Will never happen again, of course.

    3. Phil Endecott Silver badge

      Re: Perhaps I'm the only one left

      I went to the post office the other day to buy a stamp. I had recevied, by email, a scan of a paper form which I had to print, sign, photocopy for my records, and post back; the whole process took about 3 days - largely due to the enormous PDF overwhelming my rarely-used printer - of which the 10 minute queue in the P.O. was just a small part.

      At the front of the queue, a guy in his 20s was asking: "so is this self-adhesive?". "Oh, so do I have to tear it along the perforations?". "Then I tape it on? Do you have some tape?". "Oh so if I lick it it will stick by itslef! OK I'll give it a try! Thanks so much for your help!".

      1. MonkeyCee Silver badge

        Re: Perhaps I'm the only one left

        "At the front of the queue, a guy in his 20s was asking: "so is this self-adhesive?"......"

        I'm sure this was aimed at a "LOL, millenials" but I ship stuff through the post a lot, anything I can get into an envelope or box that will go through an automated sorting does. Those get stamps on, otherwise it's a trip to the post office/DHL and paying a chunk more.

        So pretty much every "normal" stamp I use is self adhesive. The shipping labels are also self adhesive. They have been for 10+ years. The only stamps I come across that aren't are usually collectible, haven't had a rip and lick jobby for years.

        But I have had "smart" boomers both be shocked that I had actual stamps around (despite knowing I mail stuff to customers) and then attempt to lick not one but two stamps (since the first wasn't working properly clearly), which then had to be stuck on with, you guessed it, sticky tape.

        So yes, if you want to sell me an old fashioned stamp (I'm not sure what for) rather than sticking on 1-4 self adhesive ones, I would appreciate the instruction. Even if I'm old enough to know better :)

  15. RyokuMas Silver badge
    FAIL

    What's on the other end?

    Remember when the whole thing about Google reading you emails? Just because the person you needed to email had been suckered into signing up to a gmail account, your emails were on Google's radar with no consent?

    Yeah.

    Video chat with a smartphone on the other end? A smartphone app to control it? Playing Youtube videos?

    'Nuff said.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    In my head I just heard ...

    ... so you've invented the phone ...

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: In my head I just heard ...

      Video phone. Watson!

  17. Dabooka Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    This is just what is needed

    My good friend has elderly parents who up until recently used Skype on their smart TV to talk to kids and grand kids in NZ. Worked a treat, they'd be sat there, a box appears and hey presto (exactly what no one wanted to do in the article). Now there's no support we're struggling to come up with a simple enough replacement system that doesn't need some sort of pre-planning (such as having a laptop turned on ready etc etc).

    This, it would appear, would be the out-the-box solution he needs

  18. mathew42
    Pint

    Reminds me of chumby

    This reminds me of the chumby.

    1. DropBear Silver badge

      Re: Reminds me of chumby

      D'oh, I got ninja'd retroactively...

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Setup

    Still doesn't get around the having to set it up on granny's wifi at the other end?

    1. daldred

      Re: Really?

      Actually, it's more than that - Granny probably doesn't have internet at all. Before this turned up, why would she - at her age and with her health, even learning how to use a new-ish TV was a real trial, so learning to use a PC or even a tablet wasn't feasible.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Really?

        "Granny probably doesn't have internet at all."

        How long do we have to put up with this juvenile stupidity?

        Of course those of us in the70+ age group have internet. My 90-yo cousin has an iPad (and a robot lawnmower which is an actual thing these days). His wife has a Linux PC (the answer to having been successfully phished with ransomware) which also, via Calibre, acts as a server for her Kindle. Another cousin and her husband have 2 Linux PCs & a laptop on their internet connection; one of those PCs was bought from Time which, for those who know, indicates how long they've been online.

        The internet has been available as a commercial proposition since the 1990s, PCs since the 1980s. Many of us have been using computers since the 60s or maybe even earlier. Do you really think the internet, computers & all sprung into existence when you got your first mobile phone (BTW I was working in the mobile industry in the mid '80s)?

        The only thing such would-be witty comments show is the depth of the commentards' ignorance.

        1. Teiwaz Silver badge

          Re: Really?

          The only thing such would-be witty comments show is the depth of the commentards' ignorance.

          To be fair... Those of us not yet lucky enough to have survived into our 70's (many won't) are probably still thinking of 'our' grandparents.......

        2. AndrueC Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Re: Really?

          Damn' right. My Dad (mid 80s) used to run a community centre having helped build it (his idea of 'retirement' :) ). He's still very active in it and is forever sending emails. His circle of 'oldies' know how to text. Most of them have a smart phone (though not usually the latest model and in my Dad and his partner's case 'smart' is stretching things a bit).

          I even remember that he watched iPlayer before I did. In fact I think it was him pointed out to me that a show was available online when I hadn't even thought about that at the time. Sadly he they went on to annoy me by asking how he could connect his laptop to the TV which turned out to be a pain in the arse.

          'The elderly' don't spend hour after hour online but then that's just not how their lives work - and they aer probably all the better for it. They prefer to be out and about chatting face to face and enjoying the fresh air. The only real difference I see is that those over 70 seem to see the internet as an occasionally useful tool. Those under 40 see it as an essential part of life. At 50 I feel half way between the two. I don't live my life online but equally it's more than just a tool to use when I have to.

        3. ecofeco Silver badge

          Re: Really?

          How long DS? Oh about another 2 decades because the stereotype is quite real and pervasive.

          Not all old gits? Of course. But still the majority. I know, I'm their tech support.

          Hell even kids these days ain't as slick as they think they are.

          So chill. Tech support exists for a reason. Billions of people can barely operate their devices.

        4. really_adf

          Re: Really?

          "Granny probably doesn't have internet at all."

          How long do we have to put up with this juvenile stupidity?

          Of course those of us in the 70+ age group have internet.

          Actually, the original comment is not unreasonable; I infer 59% of over 75s had not used the Internet "recently" according to:

          https://www.ons.gov.uk/businessindustryandtrade/itandinternetindustry/bulletins/internetusers/2017

          The proportion of older people who use the Internet is (unsurprisingly) rising, but it could be a decade before they are the majority.

          1. LaeMing Silver badge
            Thumb Up

            Re: Really?

            My 80+ mum not only knows how to do web searches and emails, she knows not to open attachments from anyone not me (though she still calls emails 'faxes'). She quite happily used a curated and locked down Linux for years before a manager at work gave me a last-gen iMac in return for securely wiping it. I think she still prefers the way I had Linux set up for her, though. Probably install it back once her iMac drops off OS support.

  20. nickx89

    I would give it a try.

    Digital photo frames alongside my table. I would definitely buy this.

  21. sal II

    Target demographic?

    "And that is the core market for the device: people who are too young or too old to figure out, or want to figure out, how the iPad works when all they want is to use Facetime or look at pictures."

    Both my 3 y.o. son and my 78 grandmother can use iPad for basic stuff, so who exactly is this targeted at?

    The "discount" price is the same as iPad mini 2 and the normal price is the same as refurbished iPad mini 4, for a fraction of the hardware/software specs and versatility.

    Only knobs will buy this for the knobs...

    1. jtaylor

      Re: Target demographic?

      "a fraction of the hardware/software specs and versatility."

      I think that's actually the point. It's not the whole Internet on a steno pad, it's a television videophone. Different demographic.

      Despite all the fluff about "haptic feedback" in games, haptic design is really a thing. Knobs and buttons and switches are legit.

      I already know a few people who could use this, once it's ready for release.

  22. Mage Silver badge
    Alert

    Japan & China

    This kind of dedicated product was mature and popular in Asia more than 10 years ago and not sold in UK because culturally people didn't want video chat. Video chat was supposed to be the killer app for 3G when it was launched.

    About everyone over 8 and certainly over 12 has a smartphone now in the West. I know people in their late 80s that can use video chat on phone or PC.

    This idea of dedicated hardware is 15 years late and too niche.

  23. Paul Woodhouse

    hmm, if you've somewhere with a static IP address, then you just need any old bit of crap to install some XMPP server on and jobs a good un...

  24. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

    Funny how the article specifically states the target market is people who don't have the technical ability or inclination to manage doing this sort of stuff over social media, and yet most of the comments are "I can do this with a Raspberry PI, XMPP server, static IP".

    Yes, you can. I can too. But $600 so I don't have to fix it on my mum's computer when it breaks would be the best $600 I have ever spent, BAR NONE.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "Yes, you can. I can too. But $600 so I don't have to fix it on my mum's computer when it breaks would be the best $600 I have ever spent, BAR NONE."

      The point is that the workable solution you knock up on a Pi doesn't cost $600 to produce at scale. You have to ask where the mark-up's going.

      The ongoing need for a means of mediating some connections is a real one. We don't need yet another slurping operation.

      Perhaps the solution is to accept that such an ongoing service needs to be paid for. There could be a multi-tiered service - say a way of advertising one's current IP address (to provide for ISPs allocating addresses dynamically) for the peer-to-peer. The next tier could be a store and forward facility for passing messages to someone currently off-line and an additional facility for advertising this more permanent address. Add on a means of advertising a public key so that stored and forward data can be encrypted at rest whilst being stored. Another tier could add more encrypted storage, calendar functions etc. Is there anything in this list that seems even faintly novel except for the notion that such services are actually the product in their own right?

      1. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

        Mark up? What Mark up?

        Pi Model B: £32

        10" touchscreen: £50

        Camera: £24

        SD Card: £5

        Case: £5

        Total: GBP116, which is USD180 or so at non-apple exchange rates. That's at the economies of scale that most hardware manufacturers could only dream of. Add in the vast quantities of free coverage for the Pi due to articles in the tech and non-tech press, the favourable distribution with Farnel/Newark they no doubt were able to negotiate based on quantity, and the fact that most of their software is written for free by the community.

        Now compare to USD200 per unit for this device if you buy three of them.

        So I'll need you to clarify where the massive markup is, because I don't see it.

  25. Mike 16 Silver badge

    Photo Frame Redux?

    Or post-dialup Audrey?

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/3Com_Audrey

  26. ahjgta
    Paris Hilton

    Unbearable lightness of being on a mailing list

    Signed up for Telegram chat through my cellphone number.

    Soon after, received a text message inviting me to spend $300 / month and have my penis size increased to 5-6 cm. My last chance to be a man and get on the bus.

  27. herman Silver badge

    Retroshare

    It is easy to set up your own encrypted dark net for family and friends using Retroshare. It does messaging, voice, video, file share and more and it costs nothing.

  28. This post has been deleted by its author

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