News

Flash Drives for Freedom helps client win part of a $1.4 million grant
August 5, 2018

This week the Utah-based encryption company Mainframe made a major gift to HRF to support Flash Drives for Freedom. Here is the coverage in The Deseret News.

 

A Utah tech startup working to build a platform for secure and encrypted communications leveraged a recent venture fundraising effort to raise almost $2 million for nonprofits engaged in fighting digital snooping and political oppression.

Mainframe is developing “a censorship-resistant and surveillance-resistant blockchain protocol” on the Ethereum blockchain that aims to allow for secure communications and information transfers.

The company’s efforts to build its platform are ongoing, and it just secured some $20 million in funding for the work. While the platform is still under development, Mainframe has launched a proof-of-concept messaging app, Onyx, that functions like Slack, but on a decentralized network.

Utah native Mick Hagen, Mainframe’s founder and CEO, told the Deseret News his company’s mission is to empower both entities and individuals with the ability to own and protect their digital communications, and blockchain provides the perfect basis on which to build those tools.

“It is kind of an interesting paradox,” Hagen said. “Blockchain is decentralized, transparent and open, but you can move encrypted data in a manner that is accountable. While the decentralized structure relies on hundreds, or even thousands of verifiers, in some ways it is much more private.”

Hagen said his company created a philanthropic sidebar to their venture effort — Proof of Heart — with the goal of incentivizing investors to donate to a fund to aid nonprofit efforts that align with Mainframe’s mission goals.

Recipients of $1.4 million in Proof of Heart cryptocurrency funds included the HumanRights Foundation‘s Flash Drives for Freedom program, aimed at sharing information with North Korean residents; Witness, a group that advocates for using video and technology to record, and address, human rights abuses; Coin Center, a nonprofit think tank for cryptocurrency policy issues; Access Now, a human rights group that works to help leverage technology for change; Electronic Frontier Foundation, a civil liberties defense group; Reporters Without Borders, a group working to ensure free and fair access to information; and Index on Censorship, a group that campaigns for and defends freedom of expression rights.

Alex Gladstein, chief strategy officer for the Human Rights Foundation, said the Proof of Heart donation will aid his organization’s efforts to bring news and information to North Korean residents, via the Flash Drives for Freedom program.

“This vital support will allow (Human Rights Foundation) to send in a significant amount of news, entertainment, culture and educational materials to a population of millions who are completely cut off from the internet and brainwashed by the Kim dynasty,” Gladstein said in a statement. “To make progress towards a free North Korea, we must help put cracks in the information wall put up by the dictatorship, and give windows to the outside world to North Korean citizens. Mainframe’s support will help us make this possible.”

[…]

Hagen, who founded Mainframe in London but moved the company to Lehi earlier this summer, said the organizations that received Proof of Heart funding were chosen because of their committment to leveraging new tools, like blockchain technology, to advance the global fight for open and unsurveilled communications.

“As the world becomes increasingly digital, consumers and the institutions they rely on are forced to ask themselves the question of who should be the masters of their technology, and how,” Hagen said. “These organizations were chosen for their notable achievements in advancing the fight for the free and secure exchange of information, and their commitment to exploring uses of blockchain technology in their work.

“We’re excited to stand side by side with these organizations that put human rights first.”