Overjoyed by all the SSL goodness around me (Twitter offers SSL-only as an option, so does Facebook, Google offers 2-factor auth), I started dutifully upgrading my web browsing experience on Firefox, specifically installing the EFF Add-On that turns on HTTPS everywhere it can, in particular when using Google (it uses encrypted.google.com by default). I googled myself to test it out, and I found this interesting blog post by CSS Squirrel from a few months ago, in regards to the issue I have with Opera Mini.
CSS Squirrel says:
Ben Adida offered the following question as a counter: “Does privacy matter? Cause Opera Mini proxies all of your connections, even SSL, via its servers.” It’s a valid question, especially considering his expertise in the field of privacy and security.
Actually it’s a valid question regardless of my credentials 🙂
Not being an expert on how Opera does things, I poked at both Bruce Lawson and Molly Holzschlag, both Opera employees.
Both of them said “If you don’t trust us (Opera), then don’t use the service.”
So is Opera Mini fast? Yes. Is it secure? Yes.
But that’s not good enough. Trust is not a simple yes/no concept. I trust my dog walker to come into my home, walk my dog, and not go opening up drawers to find my medical records. But I’m not going to leave my medical records out in the open either, cause that’s just asking for trouble. I trust that the Opera browser, installed on my machine, is not phoning home my personal data, because that would be a huge breach of expectation. But if I use Opera Mini and all of my data is being shipped to Opera on every HTTP call, do I trust them never to look at it? Do I trust their security system to be so good that they won’t ever be hacked?
There are degrees of trust. I trust that most reputable installed software won’t phone home with my data. I trust that some data hosts won’t analyze my data too deeply, but certainly many will. And I’m pretty sure many data hosts will get hacked or will leak data unintentionally. So, it’s unreasonable to judge your software publishers and data hosts with the same degree of trust. There isn’t enough of a taboo against data hosts perusing your data. Facebook is mining our data, everyone knows it, and our general reaction is “oh well, what are you gonna do.” But if Microsoft Word scanned your hard drive and shipped your personal info back to Redmond, you’d be looking for a pitchfork right about now.
Opera Mini is misleading because it presents itself as an installable piece of software, when in fact it is almost a data host, and the degree of trust one should consider, when using Opera Mini, is a lot higher than that which is implied by their packaging.