Icelandic social media site targets surveillance-weary users

OSLO - Upstart social media platform Vivaldi aims to capture tech savvy users seeking to avoid aggressive advertising and the prying eyes of governments, and hopes for a boost from the closure of a rival, founder Jon von Tetzchner told Reuters.

Based in Iceland, a country known for its commitment to privacy and free speech, Vivaldi is luring users with strong data encryption and a promise not to use the content of private mail to generate advertising.

"Our initial focus is on the computer geeks because they usually have higher demands for functionality, safety and privacy," said von Tetzchner, co-founder of internet browser maker Opera Software (OPERA.OL: Quote, Profile, Research). "But a lot of ordinary people also worry about these things and we will welcome everyone."

The recently established currently offers a mail service, photo sharing, chat functions, a blog platform and discussion forums.

"There has been a lot of focus on safety lately, and it has mainly been focused on governments. But I think this is just as much an issue for the companies in this business," said von Tetzchner.

Vivaldi hopes for a boost from Opera Software's decision to shut its own social network platform on March 1 and aims to capture its several million users. von Tetzchner left Opera in 2011.

"As a society I feel that we should be more focused on limiting the massive surveillance we all are under from governments and from companies that use people's private information for advertising purposes," von Tetzchner said.

"I don't think anyone can guarantee to keep NSA away, so I won't make that promise. But we are without a doubt a safer alternative than anyone else out there. This is one of the reasons we have chosen to do it from Iceland."