Sora Enables Shipping While Keeping Your Address Privateby@sora
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Sora Enables Shipping While Keeping Your Address Private

by SoraSeptember 30th, 2021
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Data privacy has garnered more interest than ever in the public consciousness over the past few years. Pew states that “a majority of Americans report being concerned about the way their data is being used by companies (79%)… 70% of Americans say their personal data is less secure than it was five years ago. To date, to date, there has not been any effective tool for privacy-preserving mail apps such as Signal for messaging. Apple’s new feature called App Tracking Transparency allows users to opt-out of being tracked by particular apps when using other apps on their phone.

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Privacy-preserving, convenient, cost-effective shipping for creators and internet entrepreneurs

Data privacy has garnered more interest than ever in the public consciousness over the past few years, particularly in light of the increasing number of data breaches that seem to occur on a near-weekly basis. This is unsurprising, as more and more of the world’s economic activity shifts online;¹ as new tools like Zoom, Substack, and Shopify enables an acceleration towards the very digital “Future of Work;” and as entrenched advertising business models (see Google, Facebook) feed on all this increasing online activity.

This wave of new awareness around data privacy issues is apparent in plenty of recent polls and surveys. Pew states that “a majority of Americans report being concerned about the way their data is being used by companies (79%) or the government (64%)…70% of Americans say their personal data is less secure than it was five years ago.”² Cisco, in its 2019 Consumer Privacy Survey, reports that 84% of respondents care about privacy, while 48% care enough about it that they have already acted on that sentiment by switching companies or providers based on their data policies or data sharing practices.³

More recently, DuckDuckGo — the company behind the eponymous privacy-preserving search engine — conducted their own survey:

According to the company’s market research, just about every demographic wants more data privacy: young, old, male, female, urban, rural. Public polling backs that up, though the results vary based on how the question is asked. One recent survey found that “93 percent of Americans would switch to a company that prioritizes data privacy if given the option.” Another reported that 57 percent of Americans would give up personalization in exchange for privacy.⁴

Individuals are starting to care about privacy enough to change their habits. And companies are noticing.

For example, earlier this year, after an update to WhatsApp’s terms of use, Facebook announced its decision to fully enforce WhatsApp’s data policies, which give Facebook access to certain user account data, such as user contacts’ phone numbers. This sparked a major backlash among WhatsApp users, prompting many to flock over to privacy-focused messaging apps such as Signal. In light of this, Facebook pushed back the deadline for this change and eventually partly capitulated, allowing users to keep using WhatsApp without accepting the new terms of service past the new deadline.

An even more prominent and consequential example is Apple’s recent pivot to privacy. Beyond calling privacy a “fundamental human right” and draping its marketing rhetoric in privacy-themed language, Apple’s iOS 14.5 software update for iPhones and iPads comes with a new feature called App Tracking Transparency. This feature allows users to opt-out of being tracked by particular apps when they are using other apps on their phone. It could, for example, limit Facebook’s ability to track user behavior when they are not using the Facebook app.

With new expectations around a more privacy-preserving online experience, several companies have risen to meet the challenge: DuckDuckGo for search and browsing, Protonmail for encrypted email, for virtual private credit cards, Signal for messaging. And yet, to date, there has not been any effective tool for privacy-preserving mail.

Introducing Sora — Address-less Shipping

Today, we are super excited to unveil Sora, an address-less shipping tool focused on privacy, which enables individuals and businesses to send and receive packages without revealing their addresses.

Why is this important?

We feel strongly that online data privacy is both a fundamental right as well as a practical necessity, particularly as more and more of the world’s economy shifts online. While there are compelling solutions for privacy in purely online settings, there is a missing piece of the puzzle at the intersection between online and offline worlds, i.e. shipping. Sora is that missing piece, and we think it can unlock a ton of use cases for individuals as well as businesses.

For Individuals:

  • C2C Commerce: with the proliferation of tools like Shopify and Stripe, as well as marketplaces like Etsy and Poshmark, it’s easier than ever to start a business out of your garage. Use Sora to send packages to your customers, or buy goods on C2C marketplaces without revealing your address.

  • Creators & Creatives: whether you are an Instagram influencer, an OnlyFans creator, a critic, or reviewer of goods, use Sora to accept merchandise and fan gifts directly at your home. Say goodbye to PO boxes!

  • Spam Filtering: Spam boxes for email are a godsend, gobbling up all our unsolicited emails. In the real world, however, there’s no equivalent, and it’s not uncommon to watch our mailboxes fill up with spam. With Sora, you can avoid having your address information fall in the hands of advertisers and filter through spam digitally before it ever lands in your mailbox.

For Businesses:

  • Reducing liability: storing customer Personal Identifiable Information (PII) is a liability, and customers’ address data is particularly sensitive. With the number of data breaches averaging nearly 3 per day in the US alone — amounting to more than 100M personal records exposed, the costs of managing customer data are increasing manifold.⁵ In fact, IBM estimates the global cost of the average breach at $4.24M, with that number rising to $8.64M in the US.⁶ Use Sora to ship to your customers while managing their data securely.

  • Maintaining confidentiality: say you’re a small business that relies on the confidentiality of your clients, or perhaps you’re a lawyer handling sensitive or incendiary information, use Sora to ensure confidentiality is conserved, both for your clients and yourself!

Sora’s Private Beta

Today we are officially launching our private Beta. To sign up, simply go to our website and click Sign Up in the top right. We are keeping our Beta capped at a limited number for now but hope to expand the list over the next few weeks as we continue to sort out bugs and kinks.

In this first version of Sora, you’ll be able to:

  • Receive packages from individuals and businesses without giving out your physical address
  • Deny any packages you don’t want from within the app — no more real junk mail!
  • Send packages to anyone in the US with just their email address.

Best of all, all this is free as a recipient. And as the sender, you’ll benefit from discounted pricing, as Sora works with aggregators to get bulk discounts.

The Beta features are deliberately limited, but very soon, you’ll be able to do much more, such as:

  • Obtaining personalized private shipping links for Linktrees
  • Allowlisting and Denylisting individual emails or even your whole address book
  • Shipping with several different carriers, domestic and international
  • Bulk shipping to your address book, Instagram followers, Facebook friends, and more
  • Managing and updating multiple addresses and emails
  • Direct integrations with popular eCommerce sites like Shopify, Etsy, Poshmark, and more

We are super excited about the use cases that Sora can enable, and we want to build around real problems faced by real users. If you have any questions or feedback, please email us at [email protected].

Finally, please give us a follow on Medium and on Twitter at @SoraMailHQ!

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[1] See, for example, the major jump in US eCommerce penetration in 2020 to 35%, up from ~15% in the previous year. McKinsey, ”Five-Fifty: the quickening.”

[2] Pew Research Center’s “Americans and Privacy”

[3] Cisco, “2019 Consumer Privacy Survey”

[4] Wired, “DuckDuckGo’s Quest to Prove Online Privacy Is Possible”

[5] Statista, “US data breaches and exposed records.”

[6] IBM, “Cost of a Data Breach Report 2021”