Privacy Minded Search Engine Passes 3 Million Searches 8 days after Hitting 2 Million

19 Jun
  • DuckDuckGo  tweeted this morning about its latest milestone: more than three million direct searches in a single day.

duckduckgo

Last week they had just cracked the 2 million mark.

Two other alternate search engines, StartPage.com and Ixquick.com, that also focus on  keeping searcher activity private, also just announced that they passed three million daily searches.

With the focus on the NSA and the PRISM eavesdropping and snooping scandal, a once cottage industry is starting to gain traction.

Prism: what it means for all of us

10 Jun

Terrifying in its implications for all Americans. Bill Schneier is a man who has devoted his adult life to security and privacy concerns. He has one of the most important sites on the Internet and it is a site I visit daily. Here is his take on Prism.  (image from reddit)

prism

Government Secrets and the Need for Whistle-blowers

By Bill Schneier https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2013/06/government_secr.html

 

Yesterday, we learned that the NSA received all calling records from Verizon customers for a three-month period starting in April. That’s everything except the voice content: who called who, where they were, how long the call lasted — for millions of people, both Americans and foreigners. This “metadata” allows the government to track the movements of everyone during that period, and a build a detailed picture of who talks to whom. It’s exactly the same data the Justice Department collected about AP journalists.

The Guardian delivered this revelation after receiving a copy of a secret memo about this — presumably from a whistle-blower. We don’t know if the other phone companies handed data to the NSA too. We don’t know if this was a one-off demand or a continuously renewed demand; the order started a few days after the Boston bombers were captured by police.

We don’t know a lot about how the government spies on us, but we know some things. We know the FBI has issued tens of thousands of ultra-secret National Security Letters to collect all sorts of data on people — we believe on millions of people — and has been abusing them to spy on cloud-computer users. We know it can collect a wide array of personal data from the Internet without a warrant. We also know that the FBI has been intercepting cell-phone data, all but voice content, for the past 20 years without a warrant, and can use the microphone on some powered-off cell phones as a room bug — presumably only with a warrant.

We know that the NSA has many domestic-surveillance and data-mining programs with codenames like TrailblazerStellar Windand Ragtime – deliberately using different codenames for similar programs to stymie oversight and conceal what’s really going on. We know that the NSA is building an enormous computer facility in Utah to store all this data, as well as faster computer networks to process it all. We know the U.S. Cyber Command employs 4,000 people.

We know that the DHS is also collecting a massive amount of data on people, and that local police departments are running “fusion centers” to collect and analyze this data, and covering up its failures. This is all part of the militarization of the police.

Remember in 2003, when Congress defunded the decidedly creepy Total Information Awarenessprogram? It didn’t die; it just changed names and split into many smaller programs. We know that corporations are doing an enormous amount of spying on behalf of the government: all parts.

We know all of this not because the government is honest and forthcoming, but mostly through three backchannels — inadvertent hints or outright admissions by government officials in hearings and court cases, information gleaned from government documents received under FOIA, and government whistle-blowers.

There’s much more we don’t know, and often what we know is obsolete. We know quite a bit about the NSA’s ECHELON program from a 2000 European investigation, and about the DHS’s plans for Total Information Awareness from 2002, but much less about how these programs have evolved. We can make inferences about the NSA’s Utah facility based on the theoretical amount of data from various sources, the cost of computation, and the power requirements from the facility, but those are rough guesses at best. For a lot of this, we’re completely in the dark.

And that’s wrong.

The U.S. government is on a secrecy binge. It overclassifies more information than ever. And we learn, again and again, that our government regularly classifies things not because they need to be secret, but because their release would be embarrassing.

Knowing how the government spies on us is important. Not only because so much of it is illegal — or, to be as charitable as possible, based on novel interpretations of the law — but because we have a right to know. Democracy requires an informed citizenry in order to function properly, andtransparency and accountability are essential parts of that. That means knowing what our government is doing to us, in our name. That means knowing that the government is operating within the constraints of the law. Otherwise, we’re living in a police state.

We need whistle-blowers.

Leaking information without getting caught is difficult. It’s almost impossible to maintain privacy in the Internet Age. The WikiLeaks platform seems to have been secure — Bradley Manning was caught not because of a technological flaw, but because someone he trusted betrayed him — but the U.S. government seems to have successfully destroyed it as a platform. None of the spin-offs have risen to become viable yet. The New Yorker recently unveiled its Strongbox platform forleaking material, which is still new but looks good. This link contains the best advice on how to leak information to the press via phone, email, or the post office. The National Whistleblowers Center has a page on national-security whistle-blowers and their rights.

Leaking information is also very dangerous. The Obama Administration has embarked on a war onwhistle-blowers, pursuing them — both legally and through intimidation — further than any previous administration has done. Mark Klein, Thomas Drake, and William Binney have all been persecuted for exposing technical details of our surveillance state. Bradley Manning has been treated cruelly and inhumanly — and possibly tortured – for his more-indiscriminate leaking of State Department secrets.

The Obama Administration’s actions against the Associated Press, its persecution of Julian Assange, and its unprecedented prosecution of Manning on charges of “aiding the enemy” demonstrate how far it’s willing to go to intimidate whistle-blowers — as well as the journalists who talk to them.

But whistle-blowing is vital, even more broadly than in government spying. It’s necessary for good government, and to protect us from abuse of power.

We need details on the full extent of the FBI’s spying capabilities. We don’t know what information it routinely collects on American citizens, what extra information it collects on those on various watch lists, and what legal justifications it invokes for its actions. We don’t know its plans for future data collection. We don’t know what scandals and illegal actions — either past or present — are currently being covered up.

We also need information about what data the NSA gathers, either domestically or internationally. We don’t know how much it collects surreptitiously, and how much it relies on arrangements with various companies. We don’t know how much it uses password cracking to get at encrypted data, and how much it exploits existing system vulnerabilities. We don’t know whether it deliberately inserts backdoors into systems it wants to monitor, either with or without the permission of the communications-system vendors.

And we need details about the sorts of analysis the organizations perform. We don’t know what they quickly cull at the point of collection, and what they store for later analysis — and how long they store it. We don’t know what sort of database profiling they do, how extensive their CCTV and surveillance-drone analysis is, how much they perform behavioral analysis, or how extensively they trace friends of people on their watch lists.

We don’t know how big the U.S. surveillance apparatus is today, either in terms of money and people or in terms of how many people are monitored or how much data is collected. Modern technology makes it possible to monitor vastly more people — yesterday’s NSA revelations demonstrate that they could easily surveil everyone – than could ever be done manually.

Whistle-blowing is the moral response to immoral activity by those in power. What’s important here are government programs and methods, not data about individuals. I understand I am asking for people to engage in illegal and dangerous behavior. Do it carefully and do it safely, but — and I am talking directly to you, person working on one of these secret and probably illegal programs — do it.

If you see something, say something. There are many people in the U.S. that will appreciate and admire you.

For the rest of us, we can help by protesting this war on whistle-blowers. We need to force our politicians not to punish them — to investigate the abuses and not the messengers — and to ensure that those unjustly persecuted can obtain redress.

Our government is putting its own self-interest ahead of the interests of the country. That needs to change.

This essay originally appeared on the Atlantic.

EDITED TO ADD (6/10): It’s not just phone records. Another secret program, PRISM, gave the NSA access to e-mails and private messages at Google, Facebook, Yahoo!, Skype, AOL, and others. And in a separate leak, we now know about the Boundless Informant NSA data mining system.

The leaker for at least some of this is Edward Snowden. I consider him an American hero.

EFF has a great timeline of NSA spying. And this and this contain some excellent speculation about what PRISM could be.

Someone needs to write an essay parsing all of the precisely worded denials. Apple has never heard the word “PRISM,” but could have known of the program under a different name. Google maintained that there is no government “back door,” but left open the possibility that the data could have been just handed over. Obama said that the government isn’t “listening to your telephone calls,” ignoring 1) the meta-data, 2) the fact that computers could be doing all of the listening, and 3) that text-to-speech results in phone calls being read and not listened to. And so on and on and on.

Here are people defending the programs. And here’s someone criticizing my essay.

Four more good essays.

I’m sure there are lots more things out there that should be read. Please include the links in comments. Not only essays I would agree with; intelligent opinions from the other sides are just as important.

Google Checkout To be Retired; Say Hello to Google Wallet

21 May

Retiring Google Checkout Announcement

On November 20th, 2013, Google will shut down its Checkout product. Here’s how this may affect you:

  • Merchants selling digital goods may transition to Google Wallet for digital goods
  • Merchants selling through Google-hosted marketplaces (e.g. Google Play) will be unaffected
  • Merchants selling physical goods will need to switch to third-party alternatives (see below)

This decision was not made lightly—ultimately, we decided our focus is best concentrated on other areas of the payments space. As we begin to sunset this product, you can expect to see a number of changes through 2013:

 

Date

Product Change

May 20th, 2013

Last day to sign up for Google Checkout

November 20th, 2013

Last day to charge orders

November 21st, 2013

Last day to ship orders

November 27th, 2013

All outstanding orders will be cancelled

December 20th, 2013

Last merchant refunds permitted through Checkout

 

We’re committed to helping you remove Google Checkout from your sites, as well as assisting in finding alternative solutions for your payment processing needs. To that end, we’ve addressed many common questions below and throughout the Checkout Merchant Help Center. You can direct questions to our product transition specialists, available 24 hours a day at 1-855-WALLET-6. Thank you for being a user of Google Checkout.

 

Is Google offering a replacement product?

No, Google is not offering a replacement processing solution for physical goods and services. We’ve partnered with three premier players in the payments industry to offer alternatives for your eCommerce needs. The links below will guide you to more detailed information about each offering, including negotiated discounts for Checkout users:

We recognize this transition may be difficult; it impacts you and your business. We’re committed to helping you with a smooth transition. While we are unable to offer a direct replacement for Google Checkout, we are continuing to invest in a variety of exciting new payments products to meet real world needs for both buyers and sellers. You can learn more about our recently launched payments products below:

 

Google Wallet Will Allow You to Send Money as Gmail Attachment

16 May

Gawker:

Google has been trying to get its electronic payment service, Google Wallet, off the ground for years now but as the months dragged on Wallet was getting about as much traction as its sister service Google Plus. That all might change with Wallet’s latest development, introduced today in the video above. If Google has its way, you’ll soon be able to send and receive money via your Gmail account in the length of time it takes to send any other email.

Beginning in the coming months, Gmail users who are 18 or older will be able to use Google Wallet to attach money to their emails. Transactions from bank accounts are free, while transactions with debit or credit cards will be charged a 2.9 percent fee. The person receiving the cash won’t have to have a Gmail account, though they will have to sign up for Google Wallet to accept the transfer. And if the thought of sending lots of money via email creeps you out,”Google Wallet Protection” will cover “100% of all eligible unauthorized transactions reported within 180 days of purchase.”

If this takes off, it seems like it could be the death knell of electronic payment giant PayPal. According to PayPal’s own numbers, it has 110 million active accounts. Gmail’s user base—425 million as of June of last year—dwarfs that.

First ever website brought back to life at its original URL

30 Apr

From CERN:

When the first website was born, it was probably quite lonely. And with few people having access to browsers – or to web servers so that they could in turn publish their own content – it must have taken a visionary leap of faith at the time to see why it was so exciting. The early WWW team, led by Tim Berners-Lee at CERN, had such vision and belief. The fact that they called their technology the World Wide Web hints at the fact that they knew they had something special, something big.

In 1993 the WWW team wrote an advert for the web that appeared in Tagung Deutsches ForschungsNetz. They wrote:

“To find out about WWW:

telnet info.cern.ch [a command you would type into your network-enabled computer]

This will give you the very basic line-mode interface. Don’t be disappointed: use it to find out how to install it or more advanced graphical interface browsers on your local system.”

I think the ‘don’t be disappointed’ is crucial here: the WWW team knew that they had something revolutionary that could look rather ordinary, even disappointing. But they had an idea of what they were building.

The first URL was: http://info.cern.ch/hypertext/WWW/TheProject.html

For many years, this URL has been dormant, inactive. It simply redirected to the web host root of http://info.cern.ch

We just put the files back online, using the archive that is hosted on the W3C site. This is a 1992 copy of the first website. This may be the earliest copy that we can find, but we’re going to keep looking for earlier ones.

Take five minutes to browse the first website. Don’t be disappointed…

 

http://info.cern.ch/hypertext/WWW/TheProject.html

Top Ten Google Searches for 2012

15 Apr

Porn terms excluded…because of course they would win by a large margin.

10.)  Kony 2012, A controversial short film produced by the organization, Invisible Children, Inc. It was a movement to have Joseph Kony, a Ugandan criminal, arrested. The film went viral on Youtube, reaching millions of views along with Facebook and Twitter.

9.) Michael Clarke Duncan:We’ll miss ya bug guy. Actor in such films as “The Green Mile”, “Armageddon”, “The Whole Nine Yards”, and “The Scorpion King”. Duncan passed away in September 2012.

8.) Gangnam Style: For those of you (in this case) blessedly with out electricity, you may have been spared from seeing or hearing  the K-pop song “Gangnam Style”. Performed by South Korean artist PSY, the music video became Youtube’s most watched music video with hundreds of millions of views.

7.) Amanda Todd: A brave teen’s  account of being bullied went viral after her suicide in October. In honor of the teen’s death, the Amanda Todd Trust was created in order to support anti-bullying awareness programs.

6.) The 2012 Summer Olympics:  Held in London this year, the US won the most medals with 46 gold, 29 silver, and 29 bronze which makes a total of 104. Olympic Gold Medalist, Gabby Douglas was also a popular search trend on Google.

5.) Linsanity:   Lin rose to fame by leading the New York Knicks to a short winning streak and was  then signed by the Houston Rockets never to be heard from again.

4.)  The Hunger Games: The movie, released in March 2012,   is based on the novel of the same name written by Suzanne Collins. Jennifer Lawrence, stars as Katniss Everdeen, along with Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth. i wanted to hate the movie, but I could not. (I was jealous of the awesome facial hair, I believe)

3.)  The 2012 election:  You did know we/the US  had elections in 2012?

2.) Hurricane Sandy, super storm Sandy, my crazy ex gf Sandy… however you best remember it, left the nation stunned as thousands on the East Coast were left homeless or without power, gas, or transportation. The storm was the deadliest and most destructive hurricane of the year.

1.) Whitney Houston: best known for her crack addiction and marriage to Bobbi Brown also was singer at one point, with such hits as “I Will Always Love You” (or the song that made everyone want to commit suicide after the third time they heard it) and “How Will I Know”

Top Ten Google Searches 2012

1: Whitney Houston

2: Hurricane Sandy

3: 2012 election

4: The Hunger Games

5: Linsanity

6: 2012 Summer Olympics

7: Amanda Todd

8: Gangnam Style

9:Michael Clarke Duncan

10: Kony 2012,

Walmart Pushes Back Black Friday to Thursday. I hope you don’t meet yourself by going back in time.

9 Nov

This year Walmart is starting its Black Friday specials two hours earlier than the year before, starting at 8 p.m. Thursday…To quote one of my fave movies, Friday…”You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

This year’s start will be Walmart’s earliest ever…even more Thursday-er, and goes to show just how confident the store is that people will be ready to spend some big bucks on low end electronics and housewares.

“We bought deep, very deep, and we bought deep on items that matter to our customers,” said Walmart U.S. Chief Merchandising and Marketing Officer Duncan Mac Naughton.

For those waiting in line on Thursday night, the store is sweetening the pot by guaranteeing that three items will be set aside for people standing in lines at its stores that night:

Those shoppers are guaranteed access to an Apple iPad 2 16GB with Wi-Fi, a March 2011 version, priced at $399 with a $75 Walmart Gift Card; a 32-inch Emerson 720p LCD TV at $148, $80 below the usual price; and an LG Blu-ray player for $38 that Walmart does not typically sell but said goes for $68 to $79 elsewhere.

No need to enjoy Thanksgiving with family and loved ones…be Thankful for standing in the cold and getting trampled to save a few bucks. Merry XMas!

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