Kim Dotcom's New Encrypted Cloud: German Pirate Back Making Waves In New Zealand

In his native Germany, Mr "Dotcom" is called by his real name, Kim Schmitz; but Germans joined with the rest of the world to see the roll-out of his new outsized Internet file-sharing site.

Kim Schmitz, a.k.a. Kim Dotcom,
Kim Schmitz, a.k.a. Kim Dotcom,
Pascal Paukner

BERLIN - Of course it looked as if somebody had just declared war. Then again big, iconic performances are nothing new to Kim Dotcom. For photographs, the 39-year-old likes to pose with expensive cars and good-looking women. His mansion is supposedly the most expensive in all New Zealand. His tangles with the justice system would provide fodder for any number of Hollywood movies. And Dotcom is of course is not his real name – here in his native Germany, his real name is Schmitz.

The live-streamed press conference he gave on Sunday morning to launch his new Internet service – Mega – was perfectly staged. Performers clad as native New Zealanders danced to a song that had overtones of a battle hymn.

For the launch, Dotcom, who hails from the northern German city of Kiel, had selected a particularly symbolic date – January 19. It was on that day last year that New Zealand police raided his estate in Coatesville, arrested Dotcom on suspicion of copyright infringement, and seized a large quantity of items on the premises, shutting down one of the Internet’s biggest websites – Megaupload.

It’s been a year since the raid, and much has happened, especially on Twitter. Dotcom discovered the 140-sign medium’s virtues as a mouthpiece after his release from jail and sent hundreds of tweets. But the most important message was sent last Saturday. At 6:47 PM, Dotcom wrote: "As of this minute one year ago #Megaupload was destroyed by the U.S. government. Welcome to Mega.co.nz."

What followed was a glitch in the otherwise perfect launch – so many people tried to log on immediately after Dotcom’s tweet that the server couldn’t handle it and Mega was unavailable for hours. In the first hour alone, 100,000 were reported to have registered. A few hours later Dotcom claimed over 500,000 registered users. That is huge for a website only a few hours old.

These figures can only be understood in the context of the phenomenal success Mega’s predecessor, Megaupload, enjoyed. On peak days the site had 50 million users. The data sent via its servers sometimes accounted for 4% of worldwide Internet traffic. It was allegedly storing more than 50 petabytes – that's some 51,200 terabytes or 51,200,000,000,000 bytes. When Megaupload was taken down, Internet providers the world over registered the fact in their traffic protocols. So it’s no wonder that many are eager to check out Megaupload’s successor.

Digital encryption for the masses

There are indications that Mega may turn out to be even more successful than Megaupload. While the latter was just one of several similar concepts on the Internet, the idea behind Mega could change the way data is shared – all files are encrypted locally before they’re uploaded.

So Mega servers store files that only the user and those authorized by the user know the content of. It could be a copyrighted video, or illegally copied music. It could also be a cooking recipe. The point is that neither the Internet provider, the police, or – and this is the big legal trick – Kim Dotcom know what’s been uploaded. The idea is simple – what Dotcom doesn’t know can’t land him in jail. If piracy is going on within his servers Dotcom can claim he has no way of knowing. And thus be safe from criminal prosecution.

Mega is using what other storage suppliers like market leader Dropbox also theoretically offer, except that with them it’s up to the user to camouflage content. Mega on the other hand is making encryption available to the masses.

First tests by the American Techblogs suggest that the Dotcom team has done a good job. And upload time is fast, at least when you’re using Google Chrome. User interface is simple and clear, but there is no smart phones and tablet access as of yet. Time will tell just how secure the concept is, although Dotcom claims that the program codes are open source, and that experts are welcome to examine them for security gaps.

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!

A Mother In Spain Denied Child Custody Because She Lives In Rural Area

A court in Spain usurps custody of the one-year-old boy living with his mother in the "deep" part of the Galicia region, forced to instead live with his father in the southern city of Marbella, which the judge says is "cosmopolitan" with good schools and medical care. Women's rights groups have taken up the mother's case.

A child in Galician countryside

Laure Gautherin

A Spanish court has ordered the withdrawal of a mother's custody of her one-year-old boy because she is living in the countryside in northwestern Spain, where the judge says the child won't have "opportunities for the proper development of his personality."

The case, reported Monday in La Voz de Galicia, has sparked outrage from a women's rights association but has also set off reactions from politicians of different stripes across the province of Galicia, defending the values of rural life.

Judge María Belén Ureña Carazo, of the family court of Marbella, a city on the southern coast of 141,000 people, has ordered the toddler to stay with father who lives in the city rather than with his mother because she was living in "deep Galicia" where the child would lack opportunities to "grow up in a happy environment."

Front page of La Voz de Galicia - October 25, 2021

Front page of La Voz de Galicia - Monday 25 October, 2021

La Voz de Galicia

Better in a "cosmopolitan" city?

The judge said Marbella, where the father lives, was a "cosmopolitan city" with "a good hospital" as well as "all kinds of schools" and thus provided a better environment for the child to thrive.

The mother has submitted a formal complaint to the General Council of the Judiciary that the family court magistrate had acted with "absolute contempt," her lawyer told La Voz de Galicia.

The mother quickly accumulated support from local politicians and civic organizations. The Clara Campoamor association described the judge's arguments as offensive, intolerable and typical of "an ignorant person who has not traveled much."

The Xunta de Galicia, the regional government, has addressed the case, saying that any place in Galicia meets the conditions to educate a minor. The Socialist party politician Pablo Arangüena tweeted that "it would not hurt part of the judiciary to spend a summer in Galicia."

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!