Post-Internet Business Idea

Here’s an idea I’ve had for a business that seems more relevant and viable now, given recent stories about Facebook and Cambridge Analytica. This will be the first attempt at putting the idea down in writing, so consider this a first draft.

The idea is to basically create a brick-and-mortar business that orders online products for individuals. Customers can either email, call, or come in person to make orders. The service will do the ordering and the product will be shipped to the brick-and-mortar store, and the customer will come in person to pay and pick up the order. This arrangement is obviously less convenient than ordering products from one’s home or smartphone. However, the arrangement allows the customer to not leave a data footprint online, including credit card information. The service is a middleman that allows individuals to get online products, in a totally secure and private fashion.

Some addition features to consider:

1. Design brick-and-mortar as a place where people like hanging out. (Ideally, this could be part of a broader mixed-use, pedestrian friendly design)….One idea would be to have Whole Foods or Longs provide this service…Another idea: Condominiums might also have a place to provide the service–providing a kiosk for residents to go to. Other sites to provide this service: Libraries? Landromats? Barnes and Noble? Wal-mart?

2. Business could provide a home delivery service.

3. Not sure if this is feasible, but if the business got big enough, I wonder if the company could build an “ethernet” for it’s custmoers–a kind of internet strictly for customers and the business, something not attacked to the world wide web.

4. Offer terminals for people to use secure emails.

24 thoughts on “Post-Internet Business Idea

  1. You know that Whole Foods is basically a brick-and-mortar Amazon now, right? I mean, it’s only been five months since the takeover, but you can already buy certain Amazon products at Whole Foods, and it’s going to serve as a place where you can take your returns (instead of having to mail your returns). If you have some patience, what you have in mind may be a reality.

  2. I’m pretty sure the owner of Fresh Cafe started a business as you described before opening Fresh Cafe.

    Is the only benefit not to get your identity stolen? I wonder if the market for that is big enough versus the costs.

  3. Mitchell,

    I knew Amazon purchased Whole Foods (I guess you didn’t read my “red pickle” post), but I didn’t realize you could order Amazon products at the Whole Foods store. I need to get more details on this.

    Don,

    To me, the issue isn’t just identity theft, but the use of data you leave online by businesses, governments, or individuals, particularly for more hostile purposes (as in the 2016 election; I think there is still some question about the effectiveness of the use of that data, but I would be surprised if the impact is negligible).

    Right now, I suspect the demand for privacy and security isn’t that high, but if my understanding the implications of those issues in relation to the internet and other developing technology/media, I would anticipate the demand for that increasing over time. I’m at the point where my demand for that is high enough that I’d be interested in using those services.

  4. I’m curious about how you feel about registering your name and address with the government, or filling out your census in a couple of year.

    Sorry; I didn’t read that Red Pickle post. I eventually read everything but too much of that depended on clicking to that external link, and I almost never click an external link if I don’t have enough info to make me want to. That’s not on you; it’s just a personal thing I have about using the web.

  5. I’m curious about how you feel about registering your name and address with the government,…

    You mean like for voting or taxes? I’m OK with that.

    … or filling out your census in a couple of year.

    I’m OK with this, too.

  6. What about those store discount cards like at Safeway or Foodland, or any membership stores like Costco or Sam’s Club? That’s pretty much the same thing as buying stuff online, data-wise. Not trying to give you a hard time. Just getting a sense of your level of caution.

  7. Costco and Sam’s, Safeway, etc. compile data and then sell it to third parties? Actually, I didn’t realize they were taking the data (purchases at their store), but I guess that makes sense. And then they use that data to target or manipulate me as an individual?

  8. Depends on what you mean by manipulate. One way to look at it is to say they offer you deals most relevant to you. Another is to say that they target you with products you might not have considered, in an effort to get you to buy more stuff.

    I doubt Costco sells your data, but I can’t say for sure because I only pretend to read those privacy policies before I click OK.

    But even if they dont, that data is in a database somewhere, and snoopers are trying to get in.

    You know the Target story about the pregnant girl, right?

    Anyway. Don’t mean to derail your topic. I would just add that your business idea would probably need to be cash-only or crypto currency only, right?

  9. Also, I don’t know if you already have Movie Pass, but although it doesn’t sell your data now, it absolutely is going to sell it later. Probably not with your name attached to it.

    Does that matter? How do you feel about your data being bought and sold if it’s absent any identification?

  10. Depends on what you mean by manipulate. One way to look at it is to say they offer you deals most relevant to you. Another is to say that they target you with products you might not have considered, in an effort to get you to buy more stuff.

    As far as I know they’re not doing that, but in general I’m trying to get away from this situation. This last part is the key. I realize that I won’t have 100% privacy or security–that I can completely protect my data from being used by others–but I’m wanting to move away from this situation, securing my data a lot more.

    By the way, where do you stand on this issue?

    But even if they dont, that data is in a database somewhere, and snoopers are trying to get in.

    That’s a good point. (I don’t know the Target story about the pregnant girl.)

    I would just add that your business idea would probably need to be cash-only or crypto currency only, right?

    Cash would ensure the most privacy/security, but customers could have a choice of how much of both they are comfortable with. They could pay via credit card, too, if the customer is comfortable with that.

    In a way, the business serves a hub or portal to the services, products and information that one can obtain on the internet. The business provides security for one’s data.

    I mentioned the notion of a community intranet. The business I’m talking about could set up something like that–sort of like a state wide web or a city wide web that is not connected to the world wide web. Utilities and banking could be among the entities on this local web. This could make the nation’s infrastructure more robust, more secure from hackers.

    But how would you access the world wide wide? The business I’m talking about would be the portal for that. How would email work, especially email people living outside the state? One idea: Drop off thumb drives with email to these hubs, and the hubs would download and send. I wonder if there would be a way to have a direct, secure line to the hub and then the people at hub would transfer the email(s) to World Wide Web…I suspect there would be problems with this.

  11. I wonder if public libraries might be one avenue for this. They’re already giving unfiltered access to the web, except that you have to use your library card, a government-issued identification, in order to use it, and the federal government is allowed to look at your browsing history and borrowing history if it wants to.

    I’m going to assume you mean you “can’t completely protect your data,” which is completely true, so what we’re really talking about for a potential clientele is people who either can’t access the web for shopping or people who are unwilling to make the tradeoffs necessary for access to those products. Among these tradeoffs are selection and price. As more and more consequences for having this data online are revealed, you may be on to something.

    There was a community intranet in the 90s. It was a way to get information about state (not city, as far as I remember) legislation, and a place for people to meet up and chat. It was okay but a bit clunky. It could easily be rebuilt but people would need either telephone modems or maybe some kind of cellphone-based wireless connection to do so with our existing infrastructure. I don’t even know if they still make telephone modems.

    By “where do I stand on this issue,” are you asking me how I feel about trading personal info in exchange for discounts and other benefits?

  12. The gist of the Target story is that a man showed up at a Target store irate that Target had sent his teenaged daughter a coupon book filled with discounts on diapers, cribs, and other baby stuff. He demanded to know why Target was sending her this stuff. Was it encouraging a teenaged girl to get pregnant?

    Target was super sorry and didn’t know what had gone wrong. It apologized to the father in the store, and then called a few days later to apologize again. When it did, the father apologized to the store: his daughter was in fact pregnant. Some versions of this story have the daughter not knowing she was pregnant at the time she received the mailer, but I can’t confirm.

    Good story on Forbes here: https://www.forbes.com/sites/kashmirhill/2012/02/16/how-target-figured-out-a-teen-girl-was-pregnant-before-her-father-did

    That Forbes piece references an NYT piece I haven’t finished reading, but it’s fascinating and it’s here:
    https://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/19/magazine/shopping-habits.html

    Anyway, the point of this story is that it can be argued that Target is being helpful, but the case could also be that Target is invading people’s privacy. Either way, the only way around it for the consumer is to pay cash for everything and never use anything identifying in the store, such as personalized coupons or your Starbucks mobile app just to buy coffee.

  13. I wonder if public libraries might be one avenue for this. They’re already giving unfiltered access to the web, except that you have to use your library card, a government-issued identification, in order to use it, and the federal government is allowed to look at your browsing history and borrowing history if it wants to.

    Good point about the way governments can look at your browsing history.

    I’m going to assume you mean you “can’t completely protect your data,”…

    Yes.

    There was a community intranet in the 90s. It was a way to get information about state (not city, as far as I remember) legislation, and a place for people to meet up and chat. It was okay but a bit clunky. It could easily be rebuilt but people would need either telephone modems or maybe some kind of cellphone-based wireless connection to do so with our existing infrastructure.

    This is a kind of cool. How difficult and expensive would creating something like this be?

    By “where do I stand on this issue,” are you asking me how I feel about trading personal info in exchange for discounts and other benefits?

    Yes, and basically the idea of privacy and security, and the lack thereof, online.

  14. State Intra-net and State Social Media

    Thinking of online security and personal data issues for myself is hard enough, but I also have to think about these issues with regard to my aging parents and children. How can an decrease the risk that they will make an error and get caught in a scam, or download something they’re not supposed to. (It recently happened.)

    These thoughts got me thinking about a local or state intranet. For teens, I’m guessing they mostly care about communicating via social media with classmates or people within their state. Or let me throw the question out there: Would they care if their social media was limited to people who lived in their state?

  15. This sounded like something that was similar to what I’m suggesting, but after skimming this it seems significantly different (although they’re thinking of ensuring privacy and control over one’s data).

  16. I’ll buy this. It could work.

    There are problems, of course, because when nobody’s in charge, NOBODY is in charge. I’m all for the anarchy of the Internet, but when you let people do whatever they want, some people are going to do some terrible things. Some people are okay with it. I’m uncomfortable with it. I’ve only recently begun to think of the blockchain beyond its original cryptocurrency application, mostly because all the blockchain frenzy has been mildly annoying. But it’s a new space with a lot of possibility, as shown here.

  17. You’re thinking that this could possibility lead to anarchy because a) no one entity would be responsible for storing the data, and b) individuals would have almost complete privacy/anonymity and control over their data? If so, I wasn’t really thinking about this, but I think this is a good point to raise.

    Actually, though, I would assume that those conditions would never be met. I take the following as a kind of internet law: Assume that your data and identity can and will be discovered at some point–because total security of one’s data and privacy is a myth. This is one reason I don’t really care for their approach.

    Also, the approach doesn’t address the way the total connectivity of the internet creates huge vulnerabilities. My idea is to segment certain activities–some that would be only for a local internet and others for the world wide web.

  18. The tech itself is already pretty much an anarchy. Since nobody can see what you’re (for example) saving in the document, it could be very unsavory stuff, and nobody would be there to know it or police it. The YouTube-like site is different, since people will be able to see the videos, obviously, but the same technology can be rolled out by less scrupulous people and who would stop anyone from using it for these unsavory things?

  19. I feel like we’re on the same page. Or do disagree?

    We may disagree regarding securing a document (i.e., no one can see what’s on it). I suspect initially that may be true, but my guess is that eventually someone will figure out a way to find out what’s in it. Then again, I could be wrong about that. Or discovering the contents might be so impractical that it rarely occurs.

  20. The odds of correctly breaking someone’s encryption key on the first try are 1 in 3.4×10^38, or 1 in 340,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000. A computer trying to break it could get lucky and get it in a few minutes, but if it doesn’t, a computer that could test 1,000,000,000,000 (that’s one trillion) encryption keys in one second would take 10.79 quintillion years, or 785 times the age of the known universe.

    We don’t yet have computing power that could do 1 trillion tests in one second, but that might be in the foreseeable future. And it would still take 785 times the age of the known universe to try them all.

    And this is assuming someone for some reason has singled you out and specifically wants YOUR encryption key.

    So it’s not inconceivable. The technology to break a good encryption key is conceivable. But those odds are so long, I think most educated people would consider it nearly impossible.

  21. My feeling is that when it comes to codes and security, both can be broken in ways that are indirect or in an unexpected way. I’m thinking of something like the enigma machine.

    By the way, I take it you disagree with the notion that one should assume that one’s privacy and data isn’t totally secure online.

  22. With serious encryption, a 1 in 340,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 chance of a correct guess in one attempt, or an almost certainty that an encryption can be broken, given computing speed that will take 1 trillion guesses per second and enough time (78 times the known age of the universe) is pretty serious, but as I said, you can get lucky and break it in a few minutes, too.

    As things are now, of course I agree with you.

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