When I learned that our new sister company, Private Internet
Access (PIA), was opening its source code, I immediately wanted to
know the backstory, especially since privacy is the theme of this month's
Linux Journal. So I contacted Andrew Lee, who founded PIA, and an interview
ensued. Here it is.
DS: What made you start PIA in the first place? Did you have a particular
population or use case—or set of use cases—in mind?
AL: Primarily PIA was rooted in my humble beginnings on IRC where it had
quickly become important to protect one's IP from exposure using an IRC
bouncer. However, due to jumping around in various industries thereafter, I
learned a lot and came to an understanding that it was time for privacy to
go mainstream, not in the "hide yourself" type of sense, but simply
in the "don't watch me" sense.
DS: Had you wanted to open-source the code base all along? If not, why now?
AL: We always wanted to open-source the code base, and we finally got
around to it. It's late, but late is better than never. We were incredibly
busy, and we didn't prioritize it enough, but by analyzing our philosophies
deeply, we've been able to re-prioritize things internally. Along with
open-sourcing our software, there are a lot of great things to come.
DS: People always wonder if open-sourcing a code base affects a business
model. Our readers have long known that it doesn't, and that open-sourcing
in fact opens more possibilities than leaving code closed. But it would be
good to hear your position on the topic, since I'm sure you've thought
AL: Since Private Internet Access is a service, having
does not affect the business' ability to generate revenue as a company
aiming for sustainable activism. Instead, I do believe we're going to end
up with better and stronger software as an outcome.
DS: Speaking of activism, back in March, you made a very strong statement,
directly to President Trump and Congress, with a two-page ad in The New
York Times, urging them to kill off SESTA-FOSTA. I'm
curious to know if we'll be seeing more of that and to hear what the
response was at the time.
AL: Absolutely! We ran a few newspaper campaigns, including one for the
Internet Defense League. It's a very strong place to mobilize people for
important issues for society. As a result of the campaign, many tweets from
concerned Americans were received by President Trump. I would say it was a
success, but from here it's up to our President. Let's hope he does the
right thing and vetoes it. That said, if the bill is signed in its current
form [which it was after this interview was conducted], the internet is
routing, and the cypherpunks have the power of the
crypto. We will decentralize and route around bad policy.