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Theme fund: NGI0 PET
Start: 2020-06
End: 2022-07


Private backups of mobile applications

SeedVault is an independent open-source data backup and restore application for Android and derived mobile operating systems. By storing Android users' data in a place the user chooses, and by using client-side encryption to protect backed-up data, SeedVault offers users maximum data privacy and resilience with minimal hassle. SeedVault uses Android's Storage Access Framework (SAF) to read and write encrypted app data. This allows it to backup and restore application data on a wide range of platforms and even USB flash drives. The first part of this project is to improve the current implementation and optimize it to work with widely used self-hosted storage solutions like Nextcloud. The second part of this project is to allow SeedVault to also back up data beyond the installed apps and their data, including the user's photos, videos and music as well as their call logs and SMS.

Why does this actually matter to end users?

The devices many of us have in their pocket half of the day have grown from simply mobile phones to full-fledged computers. You can do most if not all things that your laptop or home station used to do on your mobile phone of choice: there is an increasing amount of people who do not have any secondary computers anymore (and do not even miss them). Unfortunately, as the capabilities and possibilities of what we have come to call smartphones grew and grew, they also became more and more complex, closed off and privacy-unfriendly. As soon as you turn it on, you start sharing location about where you are, who you are in touch with and what you do online with manufactures, service providers, online ad sellers, the list goes on. And a lot of the apps you can install leave you open to further tracking, sometimes even scamming and phishing, which has become quite dangerous now most of our sensitive information is handled on these mobile devices.

The same problems exist for the technical solutions smartphones give you to back up your data and apps. Usually this means handing over everything you have to a single service provider, where you have no control over where your data goes, and can only read quite hard to understand terms of condition or privacy notices to know what happens as soon as you tap yes. Instead SeedVault is an independent and transparent tool that lets you choose exactly where you want to backup your phone data. This project aims to improve the capabilities of SeedVault and make it work with widely used open source, self-hosted cloud solutions, like Nextcloud. Also SeedVault will be able to backup not only apps and their data, but also all the pictures, videos, music and text messages you usually lose as soon as something happens to your device.

Run by The Calyx Institute

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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.