Privacy isn’t just about porn. It’s increasingly becoming an important priority for citizens and a challenging issue for lawmakers and corporations. But more than a decade of experience in the adult technology industry taught Jen McEwen and Jesse Adams a thing or two about privacy — and they used that expertise to create Tenta.
The Android app promises a simple, secure, and entirely private browsing experience on mobile devices. Tenta, which launched in public beta earlier this month, encrypts everything. Browsing history, downloaded and local files, bookmarks, videos, documents, and other media are all encrypted behind a user pin. Without it, no one — including the Tenta team — can access the information.
Tenta also has a feature called “Zones,” that lets users pin a collection of tabs to one location. One group of tabs could, for example, always operate as if the user were in Amsterdam or Seattle.
“Maybe you want to watch a BBC show but you can’t because it’s restricted,” Adams explained. “So you want to have a set of tabs that are always coming from London.”
Adams and McEwen previously started MiKandi, a Seattle-based company that operates a marketplace for adult apps, with tech lead and co-founder Chris O’Connell. They’re also the three founders of Tenta, but the new startup is an entity separate from MiKandi. For a long time, they’d been searching for a product they could launch without the restrictions that apply to businesses in the adult industry.
“It’s almost debilitating, the kind of obstacles that are in your way,” said McEwen. “So always, in the back of our mind, we thought: ‘What’s something mainstream that we can do that would utilize all these skills that we’ve developed over the last eight years and that would serve people in a meaningful way?'”
It’s easy to see the value of a secure, private browser in a time of unprecedented government surveillance. But there’s also a dark side to tools that allow users to leave no digital trace.
“Regarding the illegal activity question, this is obviously one of the big debates of our generation,” said Adams. “Every new tool or technology can always be abused by bad people, but we shouldn’t let that fear paralyze us from innovating.”
Indeed, the battle over innovation, government surveillance, and privacy has just begun — and tech companies are in the vanguard. Microsoft is embroiled in an ongoing legal skirmish with the U.S. Department of Justice over gag orders that prevent companies from informing customers when their data is seized. Earlier this year, Apple refused to create a key to unlock a terrorist’s iPhone in a high-profile fight with the FBI. And as the tech industry increasingly embraces encryption, clashes with law enforcement and the government will likely continue.
“I think tech companies have the responsibility to help dispel this dangerous belief that only suspicious people want privacy,” said Adams. “Without privacy, we don’t have freedom. What’s scarier is that technology is getting so advanced that most people don’t have the time or know-how to defend their civil liberties from such complex constant threats.”
Adams and McEwen insist that Tenta has a number of (relatively) innocuous applications. Zones are a plus for travelers (and big BBC fans). Security is essential for business people accessing sensitive information. And — perhaps the most relatable — parents want to share devices with their kids without worrying about browsing history.
“There are many use cases where somebody would need and use private browsing — true legitimate private browsing — that they can’t get right now,” said McEwen. “So we started thinking beyond the adult industry and other ways that this would be very valuable to users.”