China’s powerful internet censorship body has further tightened its grip on online news reports by warning all news or social network websites against publishing news without proper verification, state media reports.

The instruction, issued by the Cyberspace Administration of China, came only a few days after Xu Lin, formerly the deputy head of the organisation, replaced his boss, Lu Wei, as the top gatekeeper of Chinese internet affairs.

Xu is regarded as one of President Xi Jinping’s key supporters.
The cyberspace watchdog said online media could not report any news taken from social media websites without approval.

“All websites should bear the key responsibility to further streamline the course of reporting and publishing of news, and set up a sound internal monitoring mechanism among all mobile news portals [and the social media chat websites] Weibo or WeChat,” Xinhua reported the directive as saying.

“It is forbidden to use hearsay to create news or use conjecture and imagination to distort the facts,” it said.

The central internet censorship organ ordered its regional subordinates to fully fulfil their duties on the basis of content management, strengthen supervision and inspection, and severely punish fake news or news that deviated from the facts.

“No website is allowed to report public news without specifying the sources, or report news that quotes untrue origins,” the circular warned, adding that the fabrication of news or distortion of the facts were also strictly prohibited.

The report said that a number of popular news portals, including Sina.com, Ifeng.com, Caijing.com.cn, Qq.com and 163.com, had been punished and given warnings for fabricating news before distributing it, the report said, without giving any details about the penalty.

The Chinese government already exercises widespread controls over the internet and has sought to codify that policy in law.

Officials say internet restrictions, including the blocking of popular foreign websites such as Google and Facebook, are needed to ensure security in the face of rising threats, such as terrorism, and also to stop the spread of damaging rumours.

Source:  http://www.scmp.com/news/china/policies-politics/article/1985118/all-news-stories-must-be-verified-chinas-internet

Categorized in Internet Privacy

In 1989, Tim Berners-Lee, English computer scientist and the creator of the World Wide Web, couldn't have predicted that people would be using his idea to spread the word about the Arab Spring uprisings, or raise thousands of dollars to create a product. His goal was simple: he wanted a way to help people find and keep track of information more easily.

Nearly 27 years later, the World Wide Web has grown beyond the single server that Berners-Lee created to become a much larger and more influential entity. But there's one thing that continues to worry Berners-Lee--that some organizations are trying to limit people's ability to access certain types of content on the internet.

"It's been great, but spying, blocking sites, re-purposing people's content, taking you to the wrong websites--that completely undermines the spirit of helping people create," Berners-Lee tells the New York Times.

That's why this week, Berners-Lee and other powerful individuals in tech are hosting an event called the Decentralized Web Summit to discuss ways to give individuals more privacy, and more control over what they can access on the web. They want to find a way to stop governments from blocking certain web pages for example, and find more ways for people to pay for things on the internet without handing over sensitive credit card information.

Berners-Lee also told the Times that he's concerned about how the rising dominance of tech giants, such as Amazon, Google, and Twitter, is discouraging competition among companies that deal with the web, and stemming a more diverse flow of ideas.

"The problem is the dominance of one search engine, one big social network, one Twitter for microblogging," he says. "We don't have a technology problem, we have a social problem."

Berners-Lee and others sketched out their ideas for a few technological solutions that they believe could help decentralize the web. They think it would be beneficial for more websites to adopt a ledger-like style of payment, such as Bitcoin, to give people more control over their money.

Another one of the Decentralized Web Summit's organizers, Edward Kahle, has also created an Internet Archive, which can store discontinued websites and multiple versions of a web page. Those are small steps, but it's a move back in the direction of Berners-Lee's original version of the World Wide Web: a place where anyone can find the information they need--anytime, anywhere.

Source:  http://www.inc.com/anna-hensel/tim-berners-lee-decentralized-web-summit.html

Categorized in Online Research

Signs of improved intelligence communications


Most American counterterrorism, espionage and counterintelligence operations, from the Cold War to the Iraq War, are unknown to the public at large.

But we know, implicitly, that the U.S. intelligence community, military and special operations forces work quietly in the shadows to keep America safe.

And today, espionage threats against the United States pose as great a threat as ever.

Hundreds of intelligence officers from foreign nations continue to pose as diplomats, journalists and businessmen, just as they have for hundreds of years.

Recent decades have seen the addition of other types of intelligence gathering: improved signals intelligence to spy on enemy communications, image intelligence that uses photography from space, and most recently what is commonly called cyberespionage, or using computers to monitor, sabotage or steal classified information online.

For too long the public largely ignored or misunderstood the threat posed by cyberespionage. High-profile breaches at the State Department and Officer of Personnel Management and efforts by hacking collectives, Eastern European and Asian criminals and even Hollywood have raised awareness of the general threat, which continues to spread as more Americans have their identities or credit card information stolen.

But unlike most traditional methods of intelligence, cyberespionage has become a multiheaded hydra, targeting more than just America's government and military.

In a more complex area, and one of graver importance, cyberespionage now endangers American companies' intellectual property.

This threat we see from China and Russia, in particular, threatens our soft underbelly: our private sector. Not long ago, security analysts estimated the global economic cost of cybercrime to be $445 billion.

Criminals, nation-states and nation-state-sponsored hackers have begun bleeding businesses of their extensively researched and developed products, simply replicating materials for a fraction of the cost and putting them back on the world market in direct competition with American goods.

And because the United States represents a free market economy that respects property rights, rather than one of gross cronyism, we are unable and unwilling to respond in kind.

Those same countries also use cyberespionage in more traditional ways: to steal government secrets and sniff out American spies, and identify America's Chinese or Russian assets. The Chinese have also been accused of hacking pro-democracy groups in Hong Kong to disrupt their activities and eavesdrop on their communications.

And in a technological twist on its authoritarian tendencies, the Russian intelligence services now use the Internet and satellite television for propaganda purposes, including to quell internal dissent and manipulate public dialogue in the United States and elsewhere.

Meanwhile, cyberespionage can occasionally work hand in glove with another central aspect of our changing intelligence landscape: cyberwarfare.

We saw in the Republic of Georgia in 2008 and in Ukraine in 2014 how Russian forces prepped the battlefield by causing power outages and shutting down government computer systems.

China has reportedly made the decision to boost its cyberwarfare capabilities by as much as 30% in a move designed to try to give it parity, if not an asymmetric edge over other major powers in that battle space.

Cybertheft, cyberespionage and cyberwarfare represent the Wild West of intelligence and direct action, with poorly delineated lines setting the three apart, and poorly formed internationally accepted norms guiding responses to the threats. With the ability to hide a hacking trail, use proxies in an attack or feed government-level technology to criminals, the attribution capability for such activity continues to be murky, with easy deniability for unsavory actors.

Recently, a fourth area of threatening cyberactivity has surfaced: nation-states using destructive hacking for political purposes. The Iranians who hacked the Las Vegas Sands Corp. and the North Koreans who attacked Sony Pictures crossed a new threshold by targeting private companies for punitive, rather than pecuniary, reasons.

No company, no matter how prepared, can withstand the determination and resources of a country.

And just this week, Russian hackers allegedly broke into the Democratic National Committee's servers and stole research on presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

As my new CNN Original Series "Declassified" will show, patriots work every day and night to protect American lives and assets from enemies all over the world. The cyber realm presents a new arena for their efforts, one that we have not yet quite mastered. With new frontiers of concern still unfolding, however, you can bet we will see the emergence of more intelligence activity in the cyber realm.

Source:  http://www.siouxlandmatters.com/news/whos-spying-on-the-us-today-and-how


Categorized in Internet Privacy

Last week, the world heard that the Singapore Government plans to restrict Internet access for all public servants from May next year.

On the one hand, critics have argued that the policy will set Singapore back and that it contradicts our Smart Nation aspirations. On the other hand, cyber security experts have supported the plan to keep secure systems and e-mail segmented away from the Internet. Similar segmentation is already practised in sensitive parts of both private and public sectors such as banking and the military. As businesses, the general public and even other countries are watching this controversial step closely, it is important for us, as a nation and society, to send the right messages about cyber security and Internet access.

We need to make clear that segmenting Internet access is one of several ways to be secure. Segmentation reduces the risk of spear phishing, where employees mistakenly click on links in fake e-mail which lead to dangerous websites. It also reduces the risk of ransomware, where malicious software locks up all the computers of an organisation. It is a sensible solution since reports indicate that Singapore is a prime target for both of these cyber attacks. However, for the many organisations, businesses and individuals that cannot afford to disconnect themselves from the Internet, they need alternatives to reduce their risks such as identity management systems and next-generation firewalls.

We still need to prepare the nation to respond to cyber security breaches. Segmenting a network does not guarantee that it will never be hacked. For example, Iran's Natanz nuclear plant was not connected to the Internet, but it was nonetheless attacked by the Stuxnet virus and forced to close down.

Hackers are also increasing their use of cyber-attack methods that do not require Internet access, such as insider attacks and social engineering, using psychology to deceive others to grant access. Some day, a serious breach could take place and systems could be disrupted, or substantial personal data or money could be stolen.

Singapore will be resilient enough to withstand this if it has already set up backup systems, services to help victims, laws to protect the rights of victims and well-crafted emergency plans, and conducts regular drills much like the fire drills widely practised today.

In the meantime, there is a need to encourage organisations in both public and private sectors to work with their employees to find or develop secure Internet tools for work. Some government ministries may be able draw a line between "work" on secure systems and "surfing the Net" on less secure computers. But in many other organisations today, employees carry out their "work" by "surfing the Net", including research, procurement of goods and services, monitoring markets and competitors, and communicating with customers.

Employees may also use webmail to access e-mail from outside office and cloud services to transfer large documents because they are more efficient. Some public servants will use dual computers because they need to access both the secure government network as well as the Internet. Others might need to use personal devices to read work documents that come through the Internet, or use cloud services like Dropbox or Google Drive to receive large documents.

All of them need to be given secure yet efficient methods of transferring information and documents from external sources into the secure network in order to carry out their daily work productively while protecting the system from infection.This message that Internet separation is but one of several ways to be secure is especially important for the digital native generation, who have grown up using the Internet and find it natural to use Internet tools and resources to work productively.

Organisations in the public and private sectors which want to attract the best and brightest young talents from this generation, and to benefit from their fresh ideas, cannot afford to send the message that the Internet is unwelcome in their workplace.

On a broader scale, government and businesses need to assure the public that the Internet is safe enough for transactions like government e-services, banking and e-commerce, provided they observe secure behaviour. While cyber threats are increasing, so are security measures such as two-factor authentication. The challenge is to teach everyone, from the Pioneer Generation to the very young, how to use online services securely. As Singapore progresses with the Smart Nation and fintech initiatives, and more public and private services are provided online, we should not have any segment of the population that avoids using them because of fear, uncertainty and doubt.

Finally, as consumers, we need to demand that makers and providers of smart services and devices build in more security. Many Internet Of Things devices like pacemakers, fitness trackers, smart locks, security cameras and even our cars can be attacked through the Internet, and we need them to be more secure as we embark on the Smart Nation initiative.

At this time when misconceptions still abound about the safety of using the Internet, it is vital to spread the correct messages on cyber security to ensure that our public sector, businesses and the general public are able to securely and productively benefit from the technological advances of our Smart Nation.

Source:  http://www.straitstimes.com/opinion/sending-the-right-message-about-internet-and-security

Categorized in Internet Privacy

A major underground marketplace acting like an eBay for criminals is selling access to more than 70,000 compromised servers allowing buyers to carry out widespread cyberattacks around the world, security experts said on Wednesday.

Researchers at Kaspersky Lab, a global computer security firm based in Moscow, said the online forum appears to be run by a Russian speaking group. It offers access to hacked computers owned by governments, companies and universities in 173 countries, unbeknownst to the servers' legitimate owners.

Access goes for as little as $6 for a compromised server. Each comes pre-equipped with a variety of software to mount denial-of-service attacks on other networks, launch spam campaigns, illicitly manufacture bitcoin currency or compromise online or retail payment systems, the researchers said.

Starting at $7, buyers can gain access to government servers in several countries, including interior and foreign ministries, commerce departments and several town halls, said Costin Raiu, director of Kaspersky's research and analysis team.

He said the market might also be used to exploit hundreds of millions of old, stolen email credentials reported in recent months to be circulating in the criminal underground.

"Stolen credentials are just one aspect of the cybercrime business," Raiu told Reuters in an interview. "In reality, there is a lot more going on in the underground. These things are all interconnected."

The marketplace goes by the name xDedic. Dedic is short for dedicated, a term used in Russian online forums for a computer under remote control of a hacker and available for use by other parties.

XDedic connects sellers of compromised servers with criminal buyers.

The market's owners take a 5 percent up-front fee on all money put into trading accounts, Raiu said.

Kaspersky found the machines run remote desktop software widely used by network administrators to provide technical support for Microsoft Windows users. Access to servers with high capacity network connections may cost up to $15.

Low prices, searchable feature lists that advertise attack capabilities, together with services to protect illicit users from becoming detected attract buyers from entry-level cybercriminals to state-sponsored espionage groups.

An unnamed Internet service provider in Europe alerted Kaspersky to the existence of xDedic, Raiu said.

High-profile targets include a U.S. aerospace firm, banks in the United States, Philippines, Kazakhstan, Jordan, Ghana, Cyprus, South Korea and Saudi Arabia, chemical firms in Singapore and Thailand and oil companies in China and the United Arab Emirates, Kaspersky found.

Raiu declined to name the organizations. He said Kaspersky has notified national computer emergency response teams in several countries.

Source:  http://www.cnbc.com/2016/06/15/cybercrime-market-sells-servers-to-launch-attacks.html

Categorized in Internet Privacy

In December 2015, I interviewed an anti-revenge-porn activist who went to war against Hunter Moore, the “king of revenge porn.” Moore had hosted nude photos of her daughter, K, on his site. He hacked the photos from K’s email account, and their release caused her pain and humiliation. “I will carry the trauma of this experience with me for the rest of my life,” K said in court, during Moore’s sentencing. For his part, Moore—who once called himself a “professional life-ruiner”—was sentenced to two and a half years in prison.

When I wrote about the case, I decided not to use K’s name, only her first initial. Her mother is well known and the media has written about her a lot, so because of that attention, K’s name has also appeared many times in the press.

At this point, K is very publicly associated with Moore’s case. If you’re curious to see her full name, her age, her headshot, her IMDb page, just get on Google. She aspires to be an actress, and the search results tied to Moore are not the ones she wants for the rest of her life. I won’t contribute to the problem. It’s why I redacted her name in my original article, and why I’m continuing that practice here. K deserves to be forgotten.

By practicing a sort of reverse search-engine optimization, we can participate in a better, nicer, more ethical internet. 

In the early 1990s, internet luminary John Gilmore famously said, “The net interprets censorship as damage and routes around it.” In an age where social networks reign and have a say over what can or cannot be said online, this rule is no longer an absolute, but it rings true in many instances. Remove one torrent of the latest Game of Thrones episode, and another ten will spring up in its place. The internet does not like to forget.

In the European Union, this has led to the “right to be forgotten”—a legal right that people can exercise against search engines, forcing them to remove outdated or inaccurate information. It sprang from a case in Spain in which an old, irrelevant news story about an attorney’s financial embarrassments lingered in his Google search results, years after his circumstances had changed. A court ultimately forced Google to delist the news story from its search results. In 2015, Google reported receiving more than 400,000 right-to-be-forgotten requests. The company granted about 40 percent of them.

The worst-case scenario, of course, is that someone like Moore can potentially use the “right to be forgotten” to erase his misdeeds from history. And in the UK, it has been abused to censor embarrassing stories about public figures. The public has a right to know and to remember when people commit serious wrongs. But the internet doesn’t just remember scandal, corruption, and crime—it also remembers addresses, phone numbers, financial information, embarrassing photographs, and juvenile drama. Most of us have photos from freshman year of college we’d rather never see again, but they persist on Facebook in perpetuity. That’s nothing compared to the Google search problems faced by people like K, who, in her quest to have her nude photos removed from the internet, may have linked her name with the term “revenge porn” forever.

The world wide web is a magnificent library of knowledge, linked together by machine-readable text that can be crawled by search engines. Through sites like Google, you can penetrate an unimaginably dense world of words; websites, blogs, and articles that would otherwise remain obscure can easily be found.

In most cases, this is a good thing. We have never had this much knowledge and information available to us at once. It also means that an argument, which in the real world would have dissipated in a flash, can last forever. A single blog post can dog someone’s reputation for years.

To be fair, sometimes this is justified—for example, no matter how much money University of California, Davis, spends to remove online mentions of the incident, we shouldn’t forget that campus police pepper-sprayed student protesters in the face in 2011.

Still, there are many private people who simply don’t have a lot of search-engine hits for their name, and even a fly-by negative mention will float to the top, just because there isn’t much else. I’m not interested in being part of someone’s search-engine hell, and I imagine most decent people aren’t either.

Let’s set aside the legal “right to be forgotten” and think instead about the baseline of decency we want for ourselves—the kindness of forgetting. By practicing a sort of reverse search-engine optimization—refusing to supply the machine-readable text that makes search engines tick—we can participate in a better, nicer, more ethical internet. 

Source:  http://motherboard.vice.com/read/the-kindness-of-letting-the-internet-forget?trk_source=recommended 

Categorized in Online Research

My earliest Google search—the earliest one Google remembers, at least—was for "tetanus shot." My most recent was for "Tracy Morgan." In between, there are 52,493 searches, and Google remembers them all.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise. I know Google knows essentially everything there is to know about me—and you probably do, too. With its algorithms and analytics tools, it probably knows more about me than I know about myself (statistically, I most frequently search Google at 10 AM on Tuesdays in March). But presented in its totality, it's still a bit creepy to look at a history of every single Google search you've ever done.

​The company has now made it possible for you to export that history and download it from its servers. In one ZIP file, you can have a ​timestamped history of every random bit of trivia or thought you've ever had; of every restaurant you've ever cared to Yelp; of the times you looked up whether that movie you wanted to see was actually any good.


It has a record of the times you've looked up hangover cures and searched weird symptoms to perform a self diagnosis. It knows that you looked up the address to the hospital to visit a loved one and it knows that you didn't know the address to the funeral home a week later. And it knows every time you didn't turn on Incognito mode to search for porn.

Again, this is not necessarily surprising, but it is striking. We know Google uses its connected products and the information it has on you to help target ads and to personalize your experience, which makes using Google feel seamless. Maybe you’re fine with that—lots of people are willing to trade privacy for convenience, or for something that costs them no money. But what if you’re not?

​It’s possible to change your settings so that Google doesn’t link your search history to your account. That’s a start, but Google still logs searches according to IP addresses, which can still be potentially tied back to you. You can also consider using a company like Duck Duck Go, which runs a “search engine that doesn’t track you.”

Google’s not the only one who uses your search history, of course. The record it has can be and often is ​subpoenaed by the government or by law enforcement.

In the first half of last year (more recent data is not yet available), the US requested user information, including search history, from Google 12,539 times. Google complied in 84 percent of cases. There are concerns that the NSA can tap the data as well. Google says that “only you can see your history,” but how true is that, really?

Source:  http://motherboard.vice.com/read/reminder-google-remembers-everything-youve-ever-searched-for 

Categorized in Search Engine

Under Europe's "Right to be Forgotten" law, citizens there can petition Internet search providers such as Google to remove search results linked to personal information that is negative or defamatory. In many cases, these links lead to information about accusations of criminal activity or financial difficulties, which may be "delisted" if the information is erroneous or no longer relevant. 

But "gone" doesn't always mean "forgotten," according to a new study by researchers at the New York University Tandon School of Engineering, NYU Shanghai, and the Federal University of Minas Gerais in Brazil.

"The Right to Be Forgotten has been largely working and is responding to legitimate privacy concerns of many Europeans," said New York University Professor Keith Ross. "Our research shows, however, that a third-party, such as a transparency activist or a private investigator, can discover many delisted links and determine the names of the people who requested the delistings." Ross, the Leonard J. Shustek Professor of Computer Science at NYU Tandon and dean of engineering and computer science at NYU Shanghai, led the research team, which included Professor of Computer Science Virgilio Almeida and doctoral students Evandro Cunha and Gabriel Magno, all of the Federal University of Minas Gerais, and Minhui Xue, a doctoral student at NYU Shanghai.

They focused only on requests to delist content from mass media sites such as online newspapers and broadcast outlets. Although the law requires search engines to delist search links, it does not require newspaper articles and other source material to be removed from the Internet.

A hacker faces a fairly low bar if he or she knows a particular URL has been delisted. Of 283 delisted URLs used in the study, the authors successfully determined the names of the requesters in 103 cases.

But the authors also demonstrated that a hacker can prevail even when the URL is unknown, by downloading media articles about topics most commonly associated with delisting, including sexual assault and financial misconduct; extracting the names from the articles; then sending multiple queries to a European Google search site to see if the articles were delisted.

The researchers estimate that a third party could potentially determine 30 to 40 percent of the delisted mass-media URLs, along with the names of the people who made the delisting requests. Such hackers do exist and have published the names of people who requested delisting, thereby opening them to even more public scrutiny - the so-called "Streisand effect," a phenomenon, named for the reclusive star, whereby an attempt to hide a piece of information has the unintended consequence of publicizing the information more widely.

Their results show that the law has fundamental technical flaws that could compromise its effectiveness in the future.

Demographic analysis revealed that the majority of requesters were men, ages 20-40, and most were ordinary citizens, not celebrities. In accordance with the law, Google delisted links for persons who were wrongfully charged, acquitted, or who finished serving their sentences, among other privacy issues.

The researchers believe that defenses to these privacy attacks are limited. One possible defense would be for Google to never display the delisted URL in its search results. (Currently, Jane Doe's delisted robbery article would not show up when her name is used in a search, but would do so if the name of the bank were searched, for example.) This defense is not only a strong form of censorship, but can also be partially circumvented, they said.

A French data protection authority recently ordered Google to delist links from all of its properties including Google.com, in addition to its search engines with European suffixes. Google has so far refused, and the dispute is likely to end up in European courts. "Even if this law is extended throughout all of the Google search properties, the potential for such attacks will be unchanged and they will continue to be effective," said Almeida of the Federal University of Minas Gerais.

The researchers noted that they will never publicly share the names discovered in association with their analysis. They informed Google of the research results. 

Source:  http://phys.org/news/2016-06-weak-europe-forgotten-privacy-law.html 

Categorized in Internet Privacy

Unless you’ve specifically told it not to, Google remembers everything you’ve ever searched for—a fact that’s been useful for artists, Google’s bottom line, law enforcement investigations, among many other things. We’ve all searched for stuff we probably shouldn’t have from time to time, but a web developer has decided to take the shared experience of regretting a specific search to its logical extreme.


“Ruin My Search History” promises to “ruin your Google search history with a single click,” and that’s exactly what it does. Click on the magnifying glass and it’ll take over your browser and immediately cycles through a series of search terms ranging from the mildly embarrassing (“why doesn’t my poo float,” “smelly penis cure urgent”) to the potentially relationship-ruining (“mail order paternity test,” “attracted to mother why”) to the type of thing that might get your name on a list somewhere (“isis application form,” “cheap syria flights,” “how to kill someone hypothetically”).


Jon, the developer who made it, says more than 500,000 people have ruined their search histories in the last 24 hours. He says about a quarter of the people who visit the site aren’t brave enough to click the button.






Originally, the site was going to be a tour of the internet’s most horrible images and videos, such as Goatse and Two Girls One Cup, to “quickly get you up to speed on 15 years of horrible internet,” Jon told me in an email.


“I thought better of that and went down the route of things you'd hate for people to see in your search history,” he said. “I tried to make a semi-story out of the searches to add to the horror. And added in the person's location to the queries (though people don't seem to have noticed that).”


It’s fun, mostly harmless, and if you squint hard enough, it might even be a bit subversive. I saw it as a bit of a comment on our lack of digital privacy, anyway.


“Really not sure how I came up with the idea originally,” Jon wrote. “It was probably sparked by the never ending surveillance saga in the news: Snowden, NSA, phone taps, metadata, who searches for what.” I asked Jon if he thought there’s something to the idea that if we all search for words that are likely to be on a watchlist somewhere, we can confuse the NSA or make a comment about mass surveillance.


“I had the idea that the best way to make the government’s search surveillance useless is for us all to be on ‘the list,’” he said. “Maybe it does a bit, but if that's enough to throw their surveillance off course, it's probably not great surveillance.”


After it was posted, the website quickly went to the top of Reddit’s /r/internetisbeautiful, where people immediately began to freak the fuck out over the inclusion of ISIS-related search terms. The reaction has been so visceral, in fact, that one of the moderators has had to step in and defend leaving the link to the site—which now has warnings all over it—on the page: “We've taken adequate steps to warn redditors that this link might be something you shouldn't just blindly click,” internetisbeautiful moderator K_Lobstah wrote in an incredibly long post. “I promise the NSA is not going to black bag you in your sleep (unless you are a terrorist). I promise the police are not calling a judge off his poker game tonight to obtain an emergency search warrant for your apartment.”


Jon says it’s gotten out of hand.


“The reaction on Reddit has been mental, some people seem to be legitimately freaking out,” he said. “I guess that's just the sad times we live in. We assume the feds will turn up and that we're actually guilty because we typed some words into the internet.”

Happy searching.


Source:  http://motherboard.vice.com/en_uk/read/ruin-your-google-search-history-with-one-click-using-this-website 

Categorized in Search Engine

Here’s why you need to start paying attention to Google Maps Timeline, an obscure Google feature you’ve probably never heard of.

I went over to a friend’s house a few days ago.

I arrived at 8:51 p.m. after a six-minute walk, and sat in the back yard until 10:11, a total of 80 minutes.

I don’t usually keep track of my life at this level of detail. But it turns out that between them, Google and my Android phone do. 

Since April, when I got the phone and activated the Google Maps app, the phone has been reporting my comings and goings, all of which are mapped and are visible if I’m logged in to my Google account. Have a look at your version — there may be data on you.

Google Maps Timeline, a feature that launched last summer, has tracked essentially all my movements since April 5. As far as I can tell it’s almost perfectly accurate in understanding whether I’ve been on foot, driving, or riding a bike.

The slower I travel, the more accurate the resulting maps are. When Toronto’s Don Valley Parkway is moving well, I’m tracked in quick, crude lines. In slow traffic, it becomes more precise. 

How often does my phone connect to Google? It varies, spokesperson Aaron Brindle wrote in an e-mail.

“In order for your timeline to work properly, it collects data from a variety of sources such as GPS, WiFi, cell towers and device sensors like gyroscopes and accelerometers.”

Based on my own maps, though, it seems to be in the order of about two to five minutes, though I’ve found strings that are 20 seconds apart.

A couple of days after my 80-minute social call, our middle child, who’s seven, was excited about soccer practice. Her excitement couldn’t be contained, so I took her to the park early. Once there, we had to run around until things started, until all that energy could be channeled into organized sports. Here’s what Google made of it (light blue lines only): 




As with so many things that affect our digital privacy, I apparently agreed to all this tracking, but without visualizing what my agreement would mean. It happened when I was setting up the phone and trying to get Google’s map app to work back in April.

“You must opt-in to turn on Location History for your Google account, and turn on each signed-in device that you want to use to send location reports to Location History,” Brindle wrote. “Location History is turned off by default.”

Can I trust Google with all this data I didn’t know was being gathered? For the sake of argument, let’s say the answer is yes.

A search for “google maps timeline” creepy gets dozens of results. I see the point, and somewhat agree, but on the other hand we have to give Google credit for transparency.

READ MORE: Does your phone help build Google’s traffic maps? (And is that bad?)

We sacrifice our online privacy on many different kinds of altars, but I’ve never seen a company visualize in such detail what data they were collecting, and explain exactly how to turn it off (which is easy to do).

The bigger problem, though, is this.

Even though we try to safeguard the dozens of passwords we accumulate in our digital life, our security is never going to be perfect. It’s easy to remember simple passwords, easy to rarely change them, easy to let a web browser remember them. Bad habits make busy lives a bit smoother, and they don’t matter, until they do.

The problem with Timeline is that anyone who gets hold of my Google username and password would have access not just to my email, but also to a detailed record of all of my physical movements. They could also use the Timeline feature that lets users export your geospatial data as a .kml file, and look at it in Google Earth, where it will play as an animation. So a single compromise of the Google account could lead to a permanent compromise of the data and a user’s past whereabouts.

With this in mind, let’s read this e-mailed statement from Google explaining the purpose of Timeline:

Your Timeline in Google Maps helps you easily remember and visualize the places you’ve been on a given day, month or year — providing a useful map of your life. This feature helps you visualize your real-world routines, easily view the trips you’ve taken and get a glimpse of the places you spend your time.

Now, let’s change a few pronouns around. I’ll use myself as an example.

Cain’s Timeline in Google Maps helps you easily visualize the places he has been on a given day, month or year — providing a useful map of his life. This feature helps you visualize his real-world routines, easily view the trips he’s taken and get a glimpse of the places he spends his time.

Not surprisingly, police have started to explore the possibilities. Earlier this year, the FBI served Google with a warrant in which they sought Android location data which they hoped would place a California man they were investigating for bank robbery at the scene of the crime.

The data should be precise enough to place Timothy Graham in the Bank of America in Ramona, Calif. on the day in question, supposing he robbed the bank and was dumb enough to bring his phone along as well as the “painter’s mask, hat and glasses” that witnesses described to police.

Here’s where I spent the day Tuesday, in Global’s Toronto newsroom, as my phone checked in with Google over and over again. That pretty much is where I sit, give or take five metres or so. 

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In the meantime, Timeline lets users edit or correct their data, remove dates — or just delete the whole thing entirely.

There is no real down side, Brindle says, unless you find Timeline itself useful. Google’s other location-based features will all still work.

Timeline does have a feature that alerts you to traffic problems on your usual commute, once it learns your normal route. It can also automatically generate a photo gallery if you go on vacation.

We’re not good at navigating the new world that our devices offer us, at least if we’re trying to hold on to the last shreds of privacy that are left to us.

“We have this consent model, but the consent model doesn’t work, because people don’t know what they’re consenting to,” University of Toronto law professor Lisa Austin said when we started writing about digital privacy. “It’s impossible for the average person to understand this actually, just in terms of information overload and the implications of it.”

“These companies, God knows what half of them do with your information, because we’re not reading these policies. We don’t know what we’re authorizing them to do, let alone what they’re actually following what they say they’re doing.”


Source:  http://globalnews.ca/news/2746703/google-maps-timeline-why-a-little-known-google-feature-tracked-me-for-months/

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