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Nitasha Tiku washingtonpost.com

Signal hired one of Big Tech’s sharpest critics and wants your donations

Nitasha Tiku writes on The Washington Post:

The only way to escape technology that makes money off your data is by paying for products that don’t, Whittaker says. An alternative to data collection only exists if the community of people who rely on it “kick in a little bit,” she said.

Signal is one of the few successful tech products, like the Firefox browser, led by vociferous critics of Big Tech. The app offers end-to-end encryption on group text, voice and video chat, does not collect or store sensitive information and does not store backups of your data on its servers — a viable alternative to relentless data gathering at the center of tech industry critiques.

In the world of messaging (today), you have behemoths like WhatsApp and iMessage, and they are “backed by some of the richest companies in the world.” And then there’s Signal. It’s run by a nonprofit and pretty much operates as the exact opposite — they are committed to end-to-end encryption, does not collect or store sensitive information, or backups of user data.

This post from Nitasha Tiku on The Washington Post gives a detailed backstory on Meredith Whittaker, former Google manager, and her arrival to Signal as President (and board member since 2020), as well as why Signal “hopes to support itself with small donations from millions of users.”

Tooling about.maps.earth

Open source maps for everyone 🗺

maps.earth is a planet-scale installation of Headway, but you can easily set up your own server on a smaller scale for your own personal use by running just a few commands.

This is the first I’ve heard of Headway, but I love their mission:

The Headway Project was born out of a frustration with the need to send current and future location data to a corporation in order to figure out how we’re getting from A to B. Offline-only maps apps can be frustrating to use, and sometimes suffer from performance problems, poor data coverage, or other technical limitations.

Headway aims to remedy these issues by bundling industry-standard software into a web app that’s easy to set up for yourself or your friends. No need to send your location data to anyone you don’t trust, not even maps.earth.

Practical AI Practical AI #191

Privacy in the age of AI

In this Fully-Connected episode, Daniel and Chris discuss concerns of privacy in the face of ever-improving AI / ML technologies. Evaluating AI’s impact on privacy from various angles, they note that ethical AI practitioners and data scientists have an enormous burden, given that much of the general population may not understand the implications of the data privacy decisions of everyday life.

This intentionally thought-provoking conversation advocates consideration and action from each listener when it comes to evaluating how their own activities either protect or violate the privacy of those whom they impact.

DuckDuckGo Icon DuckDuckGo

DuckDuckGo Email Protection is now open to everyone

DuckDuckGo is extending their push for greater digital privacy to email protection with DuckDuckGo Email Protection. Here’s what they shared today on the official DuckDuckGo blog at spreadprivacy.com.

DuckDuckGo Email Protection is a free email forwarding service that removes multiple types of hidden email trackers and lets you create unlimited unique private email addresses on the fly. You can use Email Protection with your current email provider and app – no need to update your contacts or juggle multiple accounts. Email Protection works seamlessly in the background to deliver your more-private emails right to your inbox.

Email tracking and spam is at an all time insanity level. As someone who gets a ton of email daily, most of which is noise and not signal, the problem of email tracking could not hit closer to home

Apple appleinsider.com

How Apple could kill CAPTCHAs

AppleInsider explains Apple’s new Private Access Tokens (PAT) tech announced at WWDC:

Using a new HTTP authentication method called PrivateToken, a server uses cryptography to verify a client passed an iCloud attestation check.

When the client needs a token it contacts an attester — in this case, Apple — which performs the process using certificates stored in the device’s Secure Enclave.

I’ve been waiting for someone to kill CAPTCHAs for us, but this will be an Apple-only solution for now:

The company is working to help make Private Access Tokens a web standard, but there is no mention of tokens working on Android or Windows. People on those platforms may have to put up with CAPTCHAs, for now — or wait for Microsoft’s and Google’s work on the matter.

I believe this is the draft of the standard that they’re referring to. Cloudflare also has a nice article on their work in this space.

Fonts fonts.bunny.net

A GDPR compliant drop-in replacement for Google Fonts

Bunny Fonts is an open-source, privacy-first web font platform designed to put privacy back into the internet.

With a zero-tracking and no-logging policy, Bunny Fonts helps you stay fully GDPR compliant and puts your user’s personal data into their own hands. Additionally, you can enjoy lightning-fast load times thanks to bunny.net’s global CDN network to help improve SEO and deliver a better user experience.

All font in the collection are fully open source, which means you can use them without fees even in commercial offerings.

Kev Quirk kevq.uk

Is DuckDuckGo, DuckDuckDone?

Kev Quirk:

DuckDuckGo, the privacy centric search firm have been found to be allowing Microsoft trackers through their browser. It’s dishonest, and I’m really disappointed.

Noteworthy: this is the DDG browser, which I’ve never used. Not the search engine. But still, this is concerning like Kev says:

DuckDuckGo tout themselves as being highly transparent and privacy respecting in everything they do. So to discover that they have been keeping this tidbit of information from their users — one that goes against the very fibre of the company — is a little concerning for me.

The Changelog The Changelog #490

Schneier on security for tomorrow’s software

This week we’re talking with Bruce Schneier — cryptographer, computer security professional, privacy specialist, and writer (of many books). He calls himself a “public-interest technologist”, a term he coined himself, and works at the intersection of security, technology, and people.

Bruce has been writing about security issues on his blog since 2004, his monthly newsletter has been going since 1998, he’s a fellow and lecturer at Harvard’s Kennedy School, a board member of the EFF, and the Chief of Security Architecture at Inrupt. Long story short, Bruce has credentials to back up his opinions and on today’s show we dig into the state of cyber-security, security and privacy best practices, his thoughts on Bitcoin (and other crypto-currencies), Tim Berners-Lee’s Solid project, and of course we asked Bruce to share his advice for today’s developers building the software systems of tomorrow.

Martin Heinz martinheinz.dev

Why and how you should leave Google Analytics

With the recent events relating to Google Analytics platform, it’s becoming very clear that the time has come for many of us to migrate from Google Analytics to different platforms.

In this article we will go over both the “Why?”, so that you can make an informed decision whether you need to migrate of not, as well as the “How?” of migrating from Google Analytics - that is, quickly and easily taking your data and moving to different analytics platform without too much hassle.

Brave brave.com

Brave amps up privacy by cutting out AMP

Brave is rolling out a new feature called De-AMP, which allows Brave users to bypass Google-hosted AMP pages, and instead visit the content’s publisher directly. AMP harms users’ privacy, security and internet experience, and just as bad, AMP helps Google further monopolize and control the direction of the Web.

The Brave team is really doubling down on privacy and security. I don’t think that strategy would’ve won users a few years ago, but in 2022 and beyond…

Practical AI Practical AI #160

Friendly federated learning 🌼

This episode is a follow up to our recent Fully Connected show discussing federated learning. In that previous discussion, we mentioned Flower (a “friendly” federated learning framework). Well, one of the creators of Flower, Daniel Beutel, agreed to join us on the show to discuss the project (and federated learning more broadly)! The result is a really interesting and motivating discussion of ML, privacy, distributed training, and open source AI.

Privacy github.com

A self-hosted, ad-free, privacy-respecting metasearch engine

Get Google search results, but without any ads, javascript, AMP links, cookies, or IP address tracking. Easily deployable in one click as a Docker app, and customizable with a single config file. Quick and simple to implement as a primary search engine replacement on both desktop and mobile.

Includes quick deployment to Heroku, Replit, and Fly. Or you can run it locally, of course via standard Python tooling or Docker.

Henrik Fricke indiepen.tech

Indiepen – a privacy-friendly solution to present your code to people

Henrik Fricke:

Indiepen lets you embed HTML, CSS, and JS code examples on a website. We built it because we wanted to embed code examples on our blog, but many existing solutions set cookies, have a ton of features or just come with a bad performance.

😎 No cookies, no tracking, no external requests
⚡️ Small footprint with less than 20 KB
❤️ Features built for everyone

Congrats, Henrik, on shipping your first open source project! 👏

Zach Bloomquist zach.bloomqu.ist

Reliable, deliverable, self-hosted email

This sounds too good to be true, because it kind of is. There is no escaping the cloud (because of email trust) or the requirement of sysadmin’ing this setup (sending/receiving email is critical). If you slack on the details or upkeep, it’s your email.

I have been on an ongoing quest to free myself from cloud services for years now. During this time, I have hosted my personal email (@bloomqu.ist) on a Google Apps G Suite Google Workspace account, which, while convenient, also means that my personal emails are at the whims of one of the world’s most privacy-hostile companies.

Don’t get me wrong – what Zach shared is quite possible, but it’s still too time consuming and difficult to host your own email. It’s untenable long-term. There’s a billion dollar business there waiting for someone to seriously compete with Google on email, and not be evil. Fastmail comes to mind. I could be wrong, but I would characterize them as being an alternative, not seriously competing with Google.

Brave brave.com

Brave adds a privacy-focused search engine (beta)

Brave Search has some similarities to DDG (which has been my default for a couple years now), but it’s different in that it builds its own index vs relying on Bing and Yandex. Brave’s principles:

  1. Privacy: no tracking or profiling of users.
  2. User-first: the user comes first, not the advertising and data industries.
  3. Independence: Brave has its own search index for answering common queries privately without reliance on other providers.
  4. Choice: soon, options for ad-free paid search and ad-supported search.
  5. Transparency: no secret methods or algorithms to bias results, and soon, community-curated open ranking models to ensure diversity and prevent algorithmic biases and outright censorship.
  6. Seamlessness: best-in-class integration between the browser and search without compromising privacy, from personalization to instant results as the user types.
  7. Openness: Brave Search will soon be available to power other search engines.

If those resonate with you, it’s worth a try. Not a Brave Browser user? You can still use search.brave.com.

Marko Živanović markozivanovic.com

Screw it, I'll host it myself

Marko Zivanovic has had enough of letting other people own his data:

Owning your data is more than just having backup copies of your digital information. It’s also about control and privacy. It’s about trust. I don’t know about you, but I don’t trust a lot of services with my data (the ones I do are few and far between).

How does he replace all those hosted services?

I created a simple diagram to roughly show how my personal setup works. Before you say anything – I’m aware that there’s a group of people that wouldn’t consider my self-hosting as pure self-hosting. I’m using Vultr to host my web-facing applications and not a server in my house. Unfortunately, the current situation doesn’t allow me to do that (yet).

This all looks like a lot of work to pull off, but maybe it’s worth it?

Screw it, I'll host it myself

EFF Icon EFF

Am I FLoCed?

The EFF launched a new site you can use to see if your Chrome install is one that Google is testing FLoC on.

Google is running a Chrome “origin trial” to test out an experimental new tracking feature called Federated Learning of Cohorts (aka “FLoC”). According to Google, the trial currently affects 0.5% of users in selected regions, including Australia, Brazil, Canada, India, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, the Philippines, and the United States.

They also do a nice job describing exactly what FLoC is and what it might mean regarding your privacy online.

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