Younity unveils ephemeral file sharing, eliminates the need to revoke permissions

By Michael Carney , written on December 12, 2013

From The News Desk

This year may go down in history as the moment the world woke up and realized that privacy matters. Between the general horror expressed at revelations of pervasive NSA spying and the emergence and rapid adoption of ephemeral and anonymous messaging apps like Snapchat, Whisper, and Rumr, it’s obvious that consumers awareness of how and with whom they share their personal information is at an all-time high.

Today that healthy paranoia is shifting to file sharing. Personal cloud company Younity has announced the beta launch of its Ephemeral File Sharing product which allows users to create a list of trusted friends and privately share music, movies/videos, photos, and documents, while setting these sharing permissions to expire. The standard expiration timeline is 7-days, but permissions can be manually revoked at any time.

“Recently they started asking us for the ability to spontaneously share any file they have more easily with their closest friends, but wanted control to unshared the file or know it would expire quickly,” says Younity co-founder and CEO Erik Caso.

Younity is well suited for the privacy and security conscious, as it never stores personal data on company servers. Rather, the company offers users cross-device accessibility to data stored on their own remote machines. For example the 100GB music collection on a user’s home PC or the 2 terabyte movie collection on their media server can both be streamed from their smartphone or tablet from around the world. In the same way, photos on their smartphone be viewed from the laptop of a family member across the country. Younity is more of a cross-platform intelligent syncing service – it’s what iCloud wishes it will be when it grows up.

When files are shared, recipients can either stream or download them at the owner’s control, and this sharing privilege can now be set to expire. At launch the expiration timeline is fixed at seven days, but it’s likely that Younity will make this setting flexible in future versions. Sharing in Younity is asynchronous, meaning recipients don’t need to add the sender to a friends list or even be Younity users. Also, shared files are optimized for the recipient device and for bandwidth, meaning, for example, that image and video files sent to mobile devices will be compressed and that flash files won’t be streamed to iOS devices with which they are not compatible.

The idea of expiring permissions is a relatively new one to the consumer category, but it’s one that has been available in the enterprise for some time. Regulated industries like financial services have relied on similar services to control the spread of sensitive information such as investment documents and corporate due diligence materials. Now this same functionality is being extended to consumers via Younity’s simple and accessible user interface. It may seem like a gimmick, but it’s valuable in that it eliminates the need to “remember” to revoke sharing access. And removing one more thing from the users’ to do list is generally a good thing.

There are limitations to Younity’s personal cloud structure. The service is limited to the storage capacity of a user’s devices and does not offer the unlimited expandability of typical cloud storage solutions. Also, all devices in a user’s private network must be turned on and connected to the Internet in order for their files to be available for sharing. This is because Younity is not a backup service and does not copy a user’s files to the cloud. It is entirely a cross-device file syncing and streaming platform.

Thus, sharing files through Younity could conceivably lead to the thorny issue of the recipient not knowing when they can access those files and when they will be unavailable, because the host device is offline. In this way, Younity would seem to work best for gaining mobile accessing files stored on a home server or even a smartphone – both of which which can be left on near-continuously – than sharing files on a laptop or tablet which may spend most of their time turned off.

Younity may not be the perfect file syncing and sharing platform in every scenario, but it bests a lot of what’s out there from a privacy and security perspective. And with today’s announcement, the company has shown that it understands the needs of consumers better than many of its competitors. And if used properly, it has the potential to simplify and reduce barriers within a user’s digital life.

So off to capture those selfies and share those home movies. Within Younity, they’ll be available on any of your devices and can be shared privately with friends. Just don’t call it “Snapchat for files.” Seriously, don’t.

[Image via AllXpats]