We all suffer from multiple (digital) personalities

More than 80% of Americans have at least one social media account. This means that you have at least one digital identity and an online community to go with it.

If you look at the bottom of this post you’ll see a row of icons that lead you to all of mine. Each of them matter to me for different reasons. I have different groups that I interact with depending on my mood and what I am trying to accomplish.

But wouldn’t it be nice to have a way to consolidate all of these identities and prove that all of these interesting accounts are the same person?

Look at that row of icons again and pay attention to the first one. It will lead you to my profile on Keybase.io.

My home base

Clicking on that Keybase icon will take you to a profile page that lists all of the digital properties for which I have provided cryptographic proof of ownership.

I’m not going to spend a lot of time discussing encryption in this post. For now, it is enough to say that I provided the answer to secret questions in a format that proved it was really me that posted the answer on a particular website or social media account.

Why? It lets me claim ownership of all of my online personas in one place. This is not a particularly tough one for me. There is only one person with my name in North America last time I checked. But if you have a more common name it can be a constant headache to try to make your individual social profiles identifiable as YOU.

Better to provide proof in the form of an encrypted note that only you could have signed. Then direct people to your Keybase profile and folks can be sure that they are visiting the profiles you meant for them to see.

Bringing your community into Keybase

While identity proof is one of Keybase’s main features it isn’t the one that will keep you coming back.

Can I interest you in a chat app that provides full encryption for both one on one conversations as well as team channels?

How about a place to securely store and share files (including git repositories)?

Need a Bitcoin wallet? Or a dead-simple way to send encrypted emails?

Of course it is available on Windows, Mac, iPhone, Android, Linux and through a web browser.

Did I mention it is free of charge?

You can think of Keybase as a replacement for your team’s Slack channels. Or your family’s group text or Whatsapp. It can be a way to share photos with grandma or presentations with clients. All while maintaining tight security with virtually no prospect of a data breach, and no pesky corporation trying to figure out how to make more money from your personal data.

Don’t be too scared to try

The Keybase apps are great. I use them on my desktop, laptop, and phone and they all work flawlessly. The one thing that turns most people away at the door is the use of words like “public encryption key”, “sigchain”, “GPG encryption” and the like.

I encourage you to take a deep breath and plunge in anyway. The initial set up of your encryption keys can seem confusing, but the Keybase docs will walk you through it a step at a time and get things set up on one device. After that it is smooth sailing as you can use the first device to authorize your other devices and soon enough you’ll be set up everywhere you want to chat or share files.

Conclusion

Keybase is a small but expanding platform for people who care about privacy and encryption. Or for folks who are simply tired of the big social media platforms and communication companies harvesting immense amounts of personal data.

If you are looking for a free alternative to Slack, Whatsapp, Telegram, or similar service Keybase might be worth a look.