The Business Model Matters

The Business Model Matters



We founded Unplugged to make privacy convenient and affordable for everyday people. Why? Because privacy shouldn’t be a luxury.

In the digital age, the business model matters. Unplugged is unflinchingly focused on privacy. This means we won’t be sneaky or deceptive about the way we make the business profitable and economically sustainable.

By contrast, most tech companies large and small, have built their businesses exploiting the data of users. Some of these companies generate billions exclusively by building detailed user profiles based on millions of data points and then selling advertising or even the data directly. Others sell physical products or high-priced services, but they still construct lucrative secondary businesses selling targeted ads and exploiting user data. Irrespective of their marketing spin, Apple didn’t go from tens of millions in ad sales to $25-$30 billion because they put user privacy first. source

Usually, you agree to this when you accept a company’s terms and conditions. However, most folks would admit that Big Tech privacy policies and terms & conditions don’t feel like a two-sided arrangement.

As consumers, we’ve accepted this bargain, as we have grown thoroughly acclimated to free apps. This concept of abstracting and concealing the cost of a product or service, so that it feels “free” or much cheaper than the actual cost of producing the product has become pervasive. Even companies outside the traditional mega-size technology players, which may sell toys, appliances or cars have been seduced by the riches of “Big Data.” They are constantly aggregating and harvesting consumer data they really don’t need.

A massive industry of specialized monitoring tools, data brokers, list sellers and marketers has formed over the last two decades. Unfortunately, most of the folks in this world don’t adhere to the Golden Rule as a first principle and ask, “Do we treat our customers how we would want to be treated?” Instead, their questions about data mining and monetization might be, “What is the minimum transparency required?”; “What can we get away with?”; or “How do we trick our customers?”

Building a More Private Business: Put the Customer First

Creating an ultra-private business model requires prioritizing individual customer rights and implementing robust measures to safeguard sensitive information.

Our objective isn’t to be one of the few privacy-focused companies. We would love to see thousands of companies upgrade their privacy practices. We want to model for many companies what it looks like to make privacy a priority.

Educate and Communicate

  • Start with education. We work to educate our team and our customers about the importance of user privacy, the practical ways to take more control over data leakage and the legal and social developments surrounding privacy in the modern age.
  • We’ve committed to transparently communicating with our users about any updates or changes in your privacy practices. We would rather run the risk of over-communicating and will never “sneak” in substantial changes.

Transparency and Consent

  • Even when legal language is required, we aim to clearly communicate data collection practices, privacy policies, and terms of service to users. If you come across language, you feel is unclear, give us feedback, and we will see if we can improve or simplify.
  • We obtain explicit consent from users before collecting any personal information.

Minimize Data Collection

  • You can’t leak or compromise data you don’t have. Collect only the necessary data required for the core functionality of your service.
  • Avoid gathering excessive personal information that is not directly relevant to your business objectives.

End-to-End Encryption

  • We implement end-to-end encryption to secure user data during transmission and storage. This ensures that only authorized parties have access to the decrypted information.

Minimal Knowledge Architecture

  • We design our systems, so even we cannot access your encrypted user data. This is an example of minimal-knowledge architecture.
  • It ensures that only the users themselves have access to their data, using strong encryption and authentication methods.
  • You still must do your part to take advantage of this technology. For instance, when you text over a cellular network (even on the UP Phone), your message is in plain text. However, when both Sender and Receiver properly use the UP Messenger, your messages are encrypted end-to-end. The UP Messenger is even available on the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store for folks who don’t use the UP Phone.

Anonymization and Pseudonymization

  • We remove or encrypt personally identifiable information whenever possible.
  • We use anonymization and pseudonymization techniques to protect user identities while still allowing for meaningful analysis to assess our company’s performance.
  • For instance, we will not upload your email submitted on the Unplugged website to a social platform like Meta. Many advertisers do engage in this kind of marketing.

User Control and Preferences

  • Our products empower users with granular control over their privacy settings. This allows users to customize the level of information they are comfortable sharing and provides easy-to-use tools for managing these preferences.
  • UP Phone is protected with an integrated firewall at the operating system level. The firewall blocks traffic to servers known for collecting user data, especially those associated with "Big Tech" companies.

Compliance and Privacy Regulations

  • We stay abreast of and comply with relevant privacy regulations and data protection laws in the regions where we operate.
  • As we aim to be a global leader in privacy - a tech company built on a completely different premise - we endeavor to exceed the minimum mandates.

Every decision at Unplugged is made to put the customer first. We didn't build the company around advertising. Don’t get me wrong. We aren’t anti-advertising. Digital ads are still a major and important driver for the online economy. We buy digital ads and use Meta and X to advertise the UP Phone. However, we can use contextual advertising without collecting individual data or even individual IP data.

Hundreds of thousands of individuals have become aware of Unplugged over the last year.

It’s my hope that as we grow, many more companies will choose to prioritize privacy as they relearn the value of this precious right.


CEO, Unplugged

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