Reclaiming our data,

By Lucie Castel Nubo

Nubo offers a much-needed alternative to GAFAM’s global, surveillance-based economy. As a local user cooperative, Nubo provides ethical email and cloud services for individuals wishing to reclaim their data.


Lucie Castel (CC-BY-SA)

Why choose a different approach ?

When we use free online services, huge amounts of our personal data are mined for profit. Targeted ads, tracking, data brokers: nevermind the service or product, it’s all about our data being sold and used to influence consumer habits. This happens behind the scenes, without the user’s awareness or explicit consent, and mostly without any government oversight. One could even argue that the social impact of surveillance capitalism may be used as a disruptive force when harnessed for political or financial purposes.

What’s Nubo ?

Nubo is a socially-minded cooperative based in Brussels, offering privacy-friendly email and cloud services. User data is stored on local servers and is never sold for profit. Nubo uses free and open source software in order to guarantee a transparent, collaborative approach that fosters trust and accountability.

How does it work ?

Together, Nubo’s 660 (and counting) shareholders provided sufficient funds to get started. After recycling three second-hand servers and developing a user-friendly interface based exclusively on stable open source software, Nubo launched its services in January 2022. Anyone can have shares in the coop (starting at 25€) and/or get a subscription for an email address and cloud storage (from 2,5€/month). As a shareholder, you get to participate in the coop’s decision-making process and community organising. As a user, you’re offered a default email address unless you create or link your own personal domain name. In any case, it comes with a cloud that lets you choose the amount of space you need to keep your files and pictures safe, collaborate on documents, synchronise calendars and organise tasks. Nubo recommends being both a shareholder and user, but if you just want to get your subscription and be done with it, that’s fine too; Nubo’s billing system allows you to prepay a desired amount so you don’t have to worry about making small payments each month. Nubo currently has 390 users but aims to reach 2000 in order to stay afloat!

Who can get involved ?

Basically, anyone. Where this type of initiative already existed in some tech-savvy circles or for NGOs (the Brussels reader may be familiar with Domaine Public, Tactic or Nestor), Nubo targets individual users that wish to get rid of their Outlook or Gmail accounts. You don’t need any practical or technical skills to get started. Many of us have distanced ourselves from destructive practices by favouring independent sources of information, soft mobility or food that respects the earth and its producers. With Nubo, you get to take these commitments a little step further by taking better care of the ever-growing space taken up by our digital lives.

Where does Nubo roam?

Nubo has its headquarters in Ixelles but is ready to provide to anyone in Belgium – with the idea of taking a once globalised and distant service and reclaiming it on a human and local scale. Nubo’s wish for a decentralised web translates to small, interconnected networks of users, shareholders, experts and citizens who come together to think about our digital future and provide mutual assistance. Nubo is committed to Belgium’s cultural and linguistic diversity, has a bilingual team and provides assistance in both French and Dutch.