Trunk

Privacy has become the central issue of this era in consumer technology. From the NSA calling iPhone users “zombies,” to carriers willingly sharing user data, to Facebook and other social networks continually changing their privacy policies, its easy to feel like there’s no reason to even attempt to maintain your privacy. Not surprisingly, some of the hottest new companies of the last year have been those that enable users to regain a semblance of control. The bulk of privacy-focused innovation has happened around messaging and email. But one area that has yet to see a true private solution is photo capture and photo sharing.

Trunx is launching today on iOS (iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch) to address this issue by allowing users to capture photos and videos and store them safely in their own private cloud. Photos captured within the Trunx app are never stored locally on a phone’s hard drive, but instead are encrypted and uploaded directly to the cloud. This also has the side benefit of freeing up phone storage.

Users can also sync their existing photos in their Camera Roll and on their PCs, as well as link their Facebook and Instagram accounts to the platform. The app includes the option to set a password required to access the app’s photo library, making it a second line of defense after a device-level pin code if a user’s mobile device is lost or stolen.

“I created Trunx after feeling extremely vulnerable when it came to my photos and videos – they were literally all over the place, and I didn’t want to share my personal memories with just anyone,” says Trunx founder and CEO Jeff Chen. “I was also concerned about losing my memories. And how do I pass down my visual legacy to my kids and beyond?”

Trunx also introduces a new photographic concept which it calls EchoPix. These are photos that also include the sound of the surrounding area. Users can actually capture up to one hour of sound in an EchoPix, but it seems to make the most sense for five to ten seconds of audio like during a concert or the celebration after a your favorite team makes a winning play.

Chen is no first-time founder. Rather, he’s built and led several successful technology companies previously, including Maxthon, the second largest browser in China. Previously Chen managed anti-forgery security products for the Singapore National University incubator. His co-founder Jay Shen played co-founding roles in TVU Networks, Open Harbor, and Billpoint.

Because Trunx is meant to store a user’s complete digital lives, the company is offering unlimited storage for those who sign up before February 2014. Thereafter, new users will get 5 gigabytes of free storage and then will pay a fee for additional storage beyond that point – prices are yet to be determined. There will eventually be additional premium features available to paid users as well, Chen says. Trunx aims to make managing large libraries more enjoyable by instituting a number of basic photo management features like sort by date/time and location, as well as image tagging.

There are a few key convenience tradeoffs required to safely store your digital memories. For example, by not storing images locally, users ensure that they will need an internet connection any time they want to access their photos. Trunx offers a partial solution to this by storing thumbnails of all a user’s images locally on their device. This isn’t a great solution from a browsing perspective, and it would seem to unravel an element of the app’s purported privacy benefits. Secondly, entering a passcode before opening the app each time is bound to cause a few missed moments. Perhaps these are the prices we must pay for piece of mind.

The other big risk is the idea of trusting all of your memories to a single company. Users must ask themselves how long that company will be around. One need look only as far as the shutdown of Everpix earlier this month for a case study in beloved photo storage services that ultimately failed.

Trunx is backed by $2 million in funding today – from unnamed investors – although Chen believes that his personal track record will make raising additional funding in the future a simple proposition. But nonetheless, despite the privacy risks of storing your memories with Facebook, Google, or Flickr (Yahoo), it’s highly unlikely that any of these companies will go out of business in the near term. Trunx’s future is far less certain. On the flip side, because Trunk isn’t a social-first platform, its far less likely that images are accidentally shared with the public.

There’s little argument that photo storage and personal security aren’t significant pain points for today’s consumer. The biggest question that remains for Chen and his team is whether have delivered a compelling enough answer to these problem to break through the noise within the category and the inertia of the status quo.

It’s easy to get up in arms about eroding privacy, but it requires an entirely different level of motivation to take action to change the situation. For Chen, taking action meant making the solution that he personally wished was available in the market. Fortunately for his users, the task is a far simpler one of downloading the app and seeing their memories synced to the cloud.

[Image via IslandTrunkShop]