Life is never dull in the world of Kim Dotcom. Fighting extradition to the US on criminal charges for piracy, he's previously spent time in jail for embezzlement and handling stolen credit card details, created file-sharing behemoth Mega Upload, invented video conferencing and became the world's best-ranked Modern Warfare 3 player. As he embarks on a career in the music business, he spoke to T3 about being tech's biggest playboy and why we all have something to fear...
Do you know T3 magazine?
Of course – you wanted to make me Tech personality of the year!
You were passed over for the award, have you come to terms with it?
[Laughs] I was really happy to be considered. It made me very happy!
First gadget you ever bought?
You remember when mobile phones were still big like a dinosaur bone? I had one of the first of those, that was probably the most exciting thing. I went partying and I had it with me. People were like ‘what the hell is that?’
What are your best memories of your playboy years?
It was over a decade ago when I was still single and I just wanted to go out and have a good time.
One thing that I did for the Monaco grand prix in 2001 – I chartered one of the world’s longest yachts and chartered the world’s second longest yachts and I had them moored back to back outside the harbour in Monaco and I turned the two longest into a giant party boat.
So both yachts were filled with 600 people including the Prince of Monaco and a lot of celebrities. It was a crazy night with cool music and pretty girls. And then the next morning we woke up and watched the Monaco Grand Prix.
What was your most extravagant purchase?
I wouldn’t know but I’m a tech geek. I always love to have state-of-the-art computer stuff and I would think the most exciting thing was in 1999 when I built the Mega car, that allowed you to use computers in the car and do video conferencing.
Flat panel screens had just come out and I had the first one from Silicon graphics and I took it to my car tuning company and I had it put in the roof of my Mercedes Benz so the first flat-screen monitor that ever came out was in my car.
I drove it to the largest computer fair in Germany. Today, everyone has screens in a car but I was the first person to do it.
You have a flair for services that tip-toe the line of legality, is that a conscious decision? Couldn't you have just created a social network and retired?
(Laughs) Look I’m not designing things to be that way. When I thought about Mega Upload, it was a simple thought process. I was trying to email a large file and I got a message back which said ‘file too big, you can’t attach it’. So I went – ‘what the hell? That’s stupid!’ and I created Mega Upload.
And it just took off! It was a super viral success. There was no thought of a grey area or anything dark. It was just a solution to a problem that still exists today.
The same with Baboom [Kim's music streaming service slated for later this year] - I think there is a lot of things wrong with the music business model where a middle man takes 70% of the money to pay an army of lawyers and staff that an artist doesn’t need.
Talking of your latest projects, how has the demand for Mega changed since the Prism revelations?
It’s huge. We grow 3% every week, we’re now a Top 500 site. It’s probably the fastest growing internet start-up right now. Every day we have 7 million users visiting our site. We have twice as much traffic as the entirety of New Zealand!
Could the NSA not break Mega’s encryption if it wanted to?
No chance! No chance in hell!
Are you worried that they’re looking at Mega?
I think after what happened to Mega Upload, even the Department of Justice is a little bit more careful now. They’ve got it totally wrong, all the experts were in our favour. It’s a civil case that they have turned into a criminal case, so Obama could win another election.
Did you expect the raid?
How different was the raid to playing Call Of Duty?
I was certainly not considering delivering any head shots. Y’know those gaming skills don’t help you much when you have anti-terror cops in helicopters storm your residence because of a copyright case, there isn’t much you can do.
Those guys beat me and hit me to the ground and punched the shit out of me. I wasn’t giving much resistance. My Call Of Duty skills didn’t help me at all.
Do you agree with what Edward Snowden did?
He’s a hero. No question about it! In a decade from now he’s going to be one of the biggest American heroes, no doubt about it. There will be statues of him and streets named after him.
That guy has given the whole world a window into all this illegal conduct. It’s unconstitutional what’s happening in the US. It’s a basic human right to have privacy and the American government has been exposed as a really dangerous government.
What Edward Snowden has achieved is bringing up a massive debate about it all now. And I think it will lead to change, which is good for mankind.
What would you say to people who think “if you haven't done anything wrong, you've no reason to worry?”
Well that’s wrong. Everyone has private moments. You don’t leave the door open when you go to the bathroom, you don’t walk around in public naked, everyone has this built in need for privacy. Anyone who says I’ve nothing to fear, nothing to hide, I’m really suspicious of that.
If you know that every bit of communication in your life is being stored somewhere and is available for instant access and review then you would be unhappy. People who say these things don’t think about them properly.
Do you think the NSA knows we're talking now?
Our Skype conversation right now is going to be recorded and will end up in an NSA spy cloud and a data centre in Utah whether it has any relevance or not. They do that will all Skype conversations, chats, emails…
When you’re Skype-ing they have software that turns speech into text and run it against an algorithm that searches for keywords and then an analyst looks it if they find keywords that are relevant.
So if we talk about NUCLEAR LAUNCH CODES or AN ATTACK ON OBAMA LET’S KILL HIM TOMORROW. Your face is going to be in front of an analyst in an hour. Yeah for real, that’s how it works.
Thanks Kim. So lastly, why make an album? Where did the idea come from?
I always wanted to make my own music. When I was in my twenties I was always driving ridiculously fast on the Autobahn and I was listening to fast dance music while I was driving.
A lot of the time I was frustrated with the long outro and filler on the album, so I said one day I’m going to do my own album where everything from beginning to end just fucking rocks. No intros, no fillers, no bullshit.
I love the pumping sound, I’m totally into beats.
- Kim's album Good Times is out now.
Interview by Tom Thorogood