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September 2022: The Passwords Problem

Plus! What I’m building in digital security and payments

In Summary:

  • Thought piece: Why Financial Privacy Matters

  • Getting control of your online accounts

After building Sandymount (a hardware startup), I decided to focus on software. The world is becoming more digital. Software companies account for an increasing fraction of GDP. So, knowledge of software seems an important skillset for an entrepreneur.

As the world becomes more digital, there is an increasing amount of data generated and stored. We are struggling to control this data at both an individual and a societal level. We have a “Passwords Problem”.

The Passwords Problem

At an individual level, we have tens or hundreds of accounts with passwords. Sometimes we use passwords like “password123” and our accounts get hacked. Sometimes we use passwords like “98gf£$$RETE£W49tj9” and get locked out for trying three times.

At a societal level, the passwords problem makes us more willing to give up our data to large companies and governments. They offer convenience and we pay with our data. This creates a new problem at the system level – data censorship and surveillance.

Our struggle with passwords is frequent and plain. The risks of relinquishing our control of data are sporadic and hidden.

Thought piece: Why Financial Privacy Matters

In a piece published by, I argued that digital payments systems will soon incorporate privacy.

There is still a pervasive view that private payments are only for criminals. Yet, many of the messaging apps that we use (e.g. WhatsApp, Signal, Telegram) provide privacy. This wasn’t the case five years ago.

Privacy has improved in messaging and soon will improve in payments too. The EU is looking at private payments below certain thresholds for the digital Euro. I haven’t heard of companies like Visa or Stripe doing this yet, but I expect they will.

For my part, I’m building a payments product called Trelis. It aims to incorporate privacy and keep data in the hands of users. You can keep an eye on progress at . Getting control of your online accounts

I have a lot of online accounts and find it overwhelming to manage everything. For the last few years, I’ve been using some simple paper checklists to keep track of how I log in to each account.

I decided to make these checklists into a simple product that other people can use. Every year, or quarter, you can print out the checklists and fill them out. This tool is easy enough for anyone to use and you can try it at . The product is doing better than I expected and was in the top 25 products on ProductHunt – a product launch platform – over the weekend. Consider leaving a comment on my Product Hunt page. This helps more people discover the product!

That’s it for this month. Let me know what you liked in the comments or by email! Cheers, Ronan

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