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[AxisOfEasy] Then: David vs Goliath. Now: DuckDuckGo vs Google

by on February 4, 2019


Weekly Axis Of Easy #84


This week’s quote:  “If you are not willing to risk the unusual, you will have to settle for the ordinary.” …by ????

Last Week’s Quote was   “Propaganda is to a democracy what the bludgeon is to a totalitarian state.”, was Noam Chomsky, winner was Vik S.

THE RULES: No searching up the answer, must be posted in the comments below:

The Prize: First person to post, gets their next domain or hosting renewal on us.


In this issue:

  • Welcome Ready Networks Customers
  • Facebook implements changes to  block ad transparency tools
  • Facebook paid teens to install spyware on their iPhones
  • Apple revokes Facebook developer certs because of above
  • Guess who else plays fast-and-loose with Apple? Google
  • Major FaceTime bug lets remote users eavesdrop via your iPhone
  • Home DNA testing company secretly shares data with FBI
  • UK man fined after avoiding facial recognition scanner on street 
  • Then: David vs Goliath. Now: DuckDuckGo vs Google. 
  • Your Digital ID has three layers. You control one.
  • easyDNS adds Litecoin payments, drops Bitcoin Cash
  • .CA Registry Maintenance February 5th, 2019

Welcome Ready Networks Customers

We’d like to extend a big welcome to Ready Networks customers, we acquired the .CA specialty registrar last week and are in the home stretch of migrating accounts to our platform. This is our weekly newsletter which isn’t a pitch-fest for our products but rather tries to digest the Internet security, privacy and censorship issues of the week.

If you’re a customer and haven’t checked the status page for the on-boarding, see the link below.

Facebook implements changes to block ad transparency tools

The media transparency group Propublica noted that Facebook has implemented changes on their platform that block tools they make that enable users to identify how they are being targeted by advertisers. Other ad transparency tools such as those offered by Mozilla and Who Targets Me all noticed that their tools also stopped working after Facebook inserted code to block them.

Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va who co-sponsored the Honest Ads Act (which requires transparency in Facebook ads) is concerned, saying that these types of tools are necessary in order to track abuses.

Facebook paid teens to install spyware on their iPhones

Facebook has been targeting teens and millennials and offering them up to $20/month plus referral fees to install a data collecting VPN on their iPhones in contravention of Apple rules.  The app would collect data about Facebook competitors, going so far as to ask installees to screenshot their Amazon order history page. After Techcrunch broke the story, Facebook, who had already been caught doing this under a previously scuttled program, announced it would shutter “Project Atlas”.

Apple took the step of revoking  Facebook’s developer certificates, sending the company into a tailspin and their shares into a slide.

If Mark Zuckerberg were to comment on this, he would probably say (check all that apply):

    [  ] Sorry
    [  ] We take security very seriously
    [  ] Your privacy is our priority
    [  ] It will never happen again
    [  ] Your data is very important to us
    [  ] We need to try harder
    [  ] It’s tough out there

Read: https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2019-01-30/facebook-shares-slide-after-apple-revokes-developer-certificate

Guess who else plays fast-and-loose with Apple? Google.

Turns out, Google has a program of its own called Screenwise Meter which invites users aged 13-18  to download the app by way of a special code and registration – the same policy violation that got Facebook’s developer certs revoked in the item above. When confronted by Techcrunch about the similarity between Google’s Screenwise Meter and Facebook’s Project Atlas, Google announced it was a mistake to proceed as it did and announced the shutdown of the program.

Major FaceTime bug lets remote users eavesdrop via your iPhone

This one broke just after we “went to press” last week (sometimes it really does feel like we’re running a news outlet here).  Turns out there’s a bug in Apple’s FaceTime application, the group chat function in particular, which enables a remote caller to eavesdrop via your iPhone’s microphone. Apple scrambled to patch the bug, disabling Facetime’s group chat functionality in the interim.

Read: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2019/jan/28/apple-facetime-bug-listen-calls-iphone-glitch-privacy

Home DNA testing company secretly shares data with FBI

Houston-based Family Tree DNA, one of the country’s largest private DNA testing providers has allowed FBI access to its million strong cache of DNA profiles. What started as a one-off occurrence last year to solve a cold-case has become an ongoing relationship where the FBI can now search any case it wants against Family Tree DNA database. Previously, the FBI only used public DNA databases where all contributors were aware that anybody could access the data.

The data sharing relationship is new but covers all past DNA profiles gathered by the company (and paid for the privilege, by their customers). I’m no lawyer, but something tells me that is a legal, privacy and customer relations minefield.

UK man fined after avoiding facial recognition scanner on street

In the UK a man has been fined after deliberately avoiding a test installation of a facial recognition scanner on a London street. The man pulled his hat down and his coat up to obscure his face as he passed the device. Contrary to the Metropolitan London Police statement that anybody declining to be scanned “would not necessarily be viewed as suspicious”, two nearby officers viewed this as suspicious and intervened with the man, who then became belligerent towards the officers (I know I would). He was fined 90 GBP for creating a public disturbance.

Then: David vs Goliath. Now: DuckDuckGo vs Google.

Maybe sometimes when you read about all the privacy abuses from Big Tech it all seems kind of hopeless, remember last week’s item about the reporter who tried to live her life without Amazon and found to her chagrin that so much of what she relied on, including her job’s IT infrastructure, relied on Amazon it was impossible. Maybe you think the same about Google and search.

Personally, I switched to DuckDuckGo over a year go, across all my devices and one of the first things I noticed was a drop in being the subject of ad retargeting. Others I recommended DDG to noticed the same. According to DDG CEO Gabriel Weinberg: “The big tech companies are taking advantage of you by selling your data. We won’t.” It’s that simple. This story looks at DDG’s David vs Goliath battle against the Google Behemoth.

Your Digital ID has three layers. You control one.

This op ed remarks on your digital life having three layers:

  1. What the machine thinks about you
  2. What your behaviour tells them
  3. What you share

You control one of these aspects. What you share. The article took an unexpected turn, suggesting that with enhanced regulations perhaps companies that rely on this data will want to enter into a more meaningful exchange with us, and our data – but personally I’m more skeptical and just try to pare down my personal digital footprint as much as possible.

easyDNS adds Litecoin payments, drops Bitcoin Cash

A bit of administrativia which I only mention here because it seemed to make a bigger splash in crypto-currency circles than I would have guessed: we’ve added Litecoin as a payment method here, but we’ve also dropped Bitcoin Cash. To understand why, I wrote a blog post about it:

.CA Registry Maintenance February 5th, 2019

On Tuesday 05 February 2019, the .CA registry, CIRA, will be transitioning from its current backend to a new system. In order to facilitate this, they will need a large maintenance time.  Between the hours of 6am and 4pm Eastern [11:00-21:00 UTC], the .CA registry will be unavailable – with the possibility of this extending if CIRA requires more time.

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