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Theme fund: NGI0 PET
Start: 2020-02
End: 2020-02
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Data and AI

Etebase - protocol and encryption enhancements

Redesign EteSync protocol and encryption scheme

Etebase is an open-source and end-to-end encrypted software development kit and backend. Think of it as a tool that developers can use to easily build encrypted applications. Etebase is the new name for the protocol that powers EteSync, an open source, end-to-end encrypted, and privacy respecting sync solution for contacts, calendars, notes, tasks and more across all major platforms.

Many people are well aware of the importance of end-to-end encryption. This is evident by the increasing popularity of end-to-end encrypted messaging applications. However, in today's cloud-based world, there is much more (as important!) information that is just left exposed and unencrypted, without people even realising. Calendar events, tasks, personal notes and location data ("find my phone") are a few such examples. This is why the overarching goal of Etebase is to enable users to end-to-end encrypt all of their data.

While the Etebase protocol served EteSync well, there are a number of improvements that could be made to better support EteSync's current and long-term requirements, as well as enabling other developers to build a variety of encrypted applications.

Why does this actually matter to end users?

People and organisations use both free and paid online services to manage their private address books, calendars and tasks. These services allow them to back up their data and share the same information across different devices - so they can add an appointment or new contact while they are on the mobile phone at the train station, or on the couch at home, and it magically emerges on their desktop calendar. Other tools allow our loved ones to know where we are at any given moment in time. Given how personal and confidential such information is, use of these convenient services can make users vulnerable to all kinds of abuse.

That risk is not necessary. Service providers can perform the core services (sharing and backup) just as well without any knowledge about user data. Given how normal encryption has become elsewhere on the internet, for instance in instant messaging, it is high time that we start applying it to the information we store about the people we meet, the places we go and the things we do. The overarching goal of the open source EteSync project is to enable users to end-to-end encrypt all of their information, and the expected outcome of this project is to improve the EteSync-protocol that ensures this very sensitive data is well-protected.

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This project was funded through the NGI0 PET Fund, a fund established by NLnet with financial support from the European Commission's Next Generation Internet programme, under the aegis of DG Communications Networks, Content and Technology under grant agreement No 825310.