July 23, 2013
MaskMe App Protects Personal Info Online
Peter Suciu for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
Privacy-based vendor Abine unveiled a new tool on Monday that might help users keep from having their personal information so easily revealed online. MaskeMe is a browser extension and mobile app that promises to give users added privacy-protection via disposable email addresses, phone numbers and even credit card numbers.
"Until now, you haven't had much of a choice in whether you give out your real personal info online. Whether you're shopping, signing up for accounts, entering contests, or whatever you do on the web, it seems like every company demands your contact info just to use their services," Sarah A. Downey posted on the Online Privacy Blog for Abine.
"And when you hand over your info, suddenly you're exposed to all kinds of risks, like spam, data breaches, or profiling. Every day, there's another story about how companies are losing, abusing, or misusing your data."
The service, which has been in a public beta version since January, officially debuted on Monday and is designed to allow users to surf the web while avoiding data stalkers. This works by limiting the amount of contact information that users need to provide online.
"MaskMe lets you easily create aliases - or Masks - of the personal info that matters most: your credit card, email address, and phone number," Downey added. "They forward to your real contact info, so you'll still get all your messages, but you can block them later. Use them just like you normally do when shopping or filling out forms, but companies never get your real info."
The tool is being offered as a freemium add-on for Firefox and Chrome, where it can create and manage dummy accounts. The upgraded subscription version, which is $5 per month, offers some added features including Android and iOS apps, as well as options for users to keep from over-sharing information via the phone.
Abine is not new to the privacy arena. In May of last year the company, which is also the maker of the popular Do Not Track Plus (DNT+) privacy tool, was named a finalist for Red Herring's Top 100 Americas award, which honored the year's most promising private technology ventures from the North American business region.
Last month, the company announced the renewal of an exclusive partnership with the California Judges Association to provide its DeleteMe service to the Association's judicial members. DeleteMe is a subscription-based service that finds and removes personal data from some of the largest data broker websites and monitors these sites to ensure that data does not return.
With MaskMe, Abine is looking to shift the "power of the web back" to users, "where it belongs." Abine's Masked Email address can reportedly be blocked with one click, while something bought online with a Masked Credit Card is safe from data breaches as the purchases were never linked to the actual credit card. The service can even stop telemarketing calls.
Essentially, the service acts as a proxy for its users and provides disposable information. Charges made on the credit card show up as "Abine Inc." on a person's bill, and users can even limit how much a merchant can charge to the card as well as deactivate the number following a purchase.
The beta version of MaskMe has reportedly attracted thousands of users and even resulted in a lengthy waiting list. Apparently the ability to put on a virtual mask is quite appealing.