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Micah Lee theintercept.com

Zoom meetings aren’t end-to-end encrypted

I’m pretty sure that, given the state of the world and the focus on Zoom right now, they will rectify this, but until then…“the only feature of Zoom that does appear to be end-to-end encrypted is in-meeting text chat.”

“They’re a little bit fuzzy about what’s end-to-end encrypted,” Green said of Zoom. “I think they’re doing this in a slightly dishonest way. It would be nice if they just came clean.”

Without end-to-end encryption, Zoom has the technical ability to spy on private video meetings and could be compelled to hand over recordings of meetings to governments or law enforcement in response to legal requests.

Thomas Smith Medium

Clearview AI has a profile on me and 'it freaked me out'

Have you ever posted an image on the public internet and thought, “What if someone used this for something?” Thomas Smith did and what he discovered about Clearview AI is disturbing…

Someone really has been monitoring nearly everything you post to the public internet. And they genuinely are doing “something” with it.

The someone is Clearview AI. And the something is this: building a detailed profile about you from the photos you post online, making it searchable using only your face, and then selling it to government agencies and police departments who use it to help track you, identify your face in a crowd, and investigate you — even if you’ve been accused of no crime.

I realize that this sounds like a bunch of conspiracy theory baloney. But it’s not. Clearview AI’s tech is very real, and it’s already in use.

How do I know? Because Clearview has a profile on me. And today I got my hands on it.

YouTube Icon YouTube

Let's set up a free, personal VPN in the cloud with Algo VPN

Following up on our awesome episode of The Changelog with Algo creator Dan Guido, I thought I’d kick the tires on this Ansible-based, self-hosted VPN solution to see what it’s like to actually set it up and configure my phone to use it. This is my first video of this kind. I’d love to know what you think! How can I do this better? Do you want moar like this? Keep my day job? What?!

The Changelog The Changelog #377

Meet Algo, your personal VPN in the cloud

The commercial VPN industry is a minefield to navigate and many open source solutions are a pain to use or ill-suited for the task. Algo VPN, on the other hand, is a self-hosted personal VPN designed for ease of deployment and security. It uses the securest industry standards, builds on rock-solid solutions like WireGuard and Ansible, and runs on an ever-growing list of cloud hosting providers.

On this episode Dan Guido –CEO of security firm Trail of Bits and Algo’s creator– joins Jerod to discuss the project in depth.

Go github.com

Simple web statistics. No tracking of personal data

GoatCounter is a web analytics platform, roughly similar to Google Analytics or Matomo. It aims to give meaningful privacy-friendly web analytics for business purposes, while still staying usable for non-technical users to use on personal websites. The choices that currently exist are between freely hosted but with problematic privacy (e.g. Google Analytics), hosting your own complex software or paying $19/month (e.g. Matomo), or extremely simplistic “vanity statistics”.

There’s a free hosted offering for non-commercial use. For those running businesses, self-host the thing. Live demo here.

Google github.com

Cutting Google out of your life

If you’re concerned with the amount of data Google has on you, this list of alternative browsers, web apps, operating systems, and hardware may help you ween yourself from the company. Looking at this list, it’s amazing just how much value Google offers in trade for our data. A note from the author:

It’s a shame that Google, with their immense resources, power, and influence, don’t see the benefits of helping people secure themselves online. Instead, they force people like us to scour the web for alternatives and convince our friends and family to do the same, while they sell off our data to the highest bidder.

Julia Evans jvns.ca

How tracking pixels work

A fun, quick dive into Facebook’s tracking pixel and how it does its thing:

I think it’s fun to see how cookies / tracking pixels are used to track you in practice, even if it’s kinda creepy! I sort of knew how this worked before but I’d never actually looked at the cookies on a tracking pixel myself or what kind of information it was sending in its query parameters exactly.

Creepy, indeed. Our browsers are the last line of defense against such creepiness. Choose yours wisely.

EFF Icon EFF

It's official: EFF's Certbot goes 1.0

Certbot was first released in 2015, and since then it has helped more than two million website administrators enable HTTPS by automatically deploying Let’s Encrypt certificates. Let’s Encrypt is a free certificate authority that EFF helped launch in 2015, now run for the public’s benefit through the Internet Security Research Group (ISRG).

A lot of progress has been made since we first talked about Let’s Encrypt on The Changelog.

Culture blog.acolyer.org

Local-first software: you own your data, in spite of the cloud

Watch out! If you start reading this paper you could be lost for hours following all the interesting links and ideas, and end up even more dissatisfied than you already are with the state of software today. You might also be inspired to help work towards a better future. I’m all in :).

I co-sign that sentiment. When the author says “this paper” they are referring to this paper which they are about to summarize. If you haven’t considered local-first software before, you should know that there are seven key properties to it, which are described in detail in the paper and in brief in the summary.

Cloud blog.trailofbits.com

Algo – your personal VPN in the cloud

The linked article is an excellent introduction to Algo, which is effectively a set of Ansible scripts that set up a Wireguard and IPSEC VPN for you.

Algo automatically deploys an on-demand VPN service in the cloud that is not shared with other users, relies on only modern protocols and ciphers, and includes only the minimal software you need. And it’s free.

For anyone who is privacy conscious, travels for work frequently, or can’t afford a dedicated IT department, this one’s for you.

Algo’s list of features (and anti-features) is compelling and most VPN services are terrible. 👀

Security github.com

A dead simple VPN

Works out of the box. No lousy documentation to read. No configuration file. No post-configuration. Run a single-line command on the server, a similar one on the client and you’re done. No firewall and routing rules to manually mess with.

This looks like a nice alternative to the many vpn-as-a-service offerings out there if you’re up for hosting it yourself.

Cory Doctorow EFF

Adblocking: how about nah?

Cory Doctorow, writing for EFF about the history and present of adblocking:

The rise and rise of ad-blockers (and ad-blocker-blocker-blockers) is without parallel: 26% of Internet users are now blocking ads, and the figure is rising. It’s been called the biggest boycott in human history. It’s also something we’ve seen before, in the earliest days of the Web, when pop-up ads ruled the world (wide web), and users went to war against them.

Fascinating. I’d never heard of adversarial interoperability before.

Wired Icon Wired

The clever cryptography behind Apple's 'Find My' feature

In upcoming versions of iOS and macOS, the new Find My feature will broadcast Bluetooth signals from Apple devices even when they’re offline, allowing nearby Apple devices to relay their location to the cloud… it turns out that Apple’s elaborate encryption scheme is also designed not only to prevent interlopers from identifying or tracking an iDevice from its Bluetooth signal, but also to keep Apple itself from learning device locations, even as it allows you to pinpoint yours.

WIRED with a fascinating explanation of an utterly fascinating scheme.

Mozilla Icon Mozilla

Mozilla has published their 2019 Internet Health Report

The report focuses on 5 questions about the internet.

  • Is it safe?
  • How open is it?
  • Who is welcome?
  • Who can succeed?
  • Who controls it?

The answer is complicated, and the report doesn’t make any particular conclusions so much as share a series of research & stories about each topic. Includes some fascinating looks at what’s going on in AI, inclusive design, open source, decentralization and more.

Brendan Eich brave.com

Brave wants to reward you for your attention

Brave has launched its “built on privacy” advertising platform that will give you 70% of the ad revenue share as a reward for your attention. I’m particularly interested in the opt-in nature of this platform as well as their promise of privacy and security.

Starting today, users of Brave’s latest release of the desktop browser for macOS, Windows, and Linux can choose to view privacy-preserving Brave Ads by opting into Brave Rewards. These users will receive 70% of the ad revenue share as a reward for their attention…

Brave Ads also provides brands with direct opportunities to highlight offers and engage with users as they browse the web. Since Brave Ads are opt-in, brands know with certainty that when their campaigns run with Brave, their ads are viewed by people who welcome advertising. Brave’s anonymous-but-accountable campaigns ensure that advertisers are connecting with the users they are seeking, removing the excessive costs, privacy, security, and fraud risks currently associated with middlemen in digital advertising.

Mozilla Icon Mozilla

“Privacy. That’s iPhone” — made us raise our eyebrows

For all our #applenerds out there — a key feature in iPhone has Mozilla worried. According to Ashley Boyd, VP of Advocacy at Mozilla, this key feature is making “their latest slogan ring a bit hollow.”

Each iPhone that Apple sells comes with a unique ID (called an “identifier for advertisers” or IDFA), which lets advertisers track the actions users take when they use apps. It’s like a salesperson following you from store to store while you shop and recording each thing you look at. Not very private at all.

You can turn the feature off, but “most people don’t know that feature even exists.” Mozilla has an idea of “privacy by default” though…

Victor Zhou victorzhou.com

Why I replaced Disqus and you should too

Victor Zhou:

Switching away from Disqus reduced my page weight by over 10x and my network requests by over 6x. Disqus is bloated and sells your data - there are much better alternatives out there.

Disqus has been the de facto comment engine used for dev blogging (especially for SSGs) for years. I’m happy to learn there are less bloated and privacy-focused alternatives out there.

Tooling pcmaffey.com

How to build a free, privacy-focused alternative to Google Analytics

Google Analytics runs on over 56% of all websites. It’s the backbone of ad-tech across the web. Unfortunately, for site owners like me who just want to learn how people are using their website—while respecting their privacy—there simply aren’t any alternatives that meet all my requirements. So in two days, after a couple dead-ends, I built my own using React, AWS Lambda, and a spreadsheet. This is how.

It’s somewhat ironic that the datastore for this project is Google Sheets. That aside, this is a well-done effort and one that I wouldn’t mind adapting for use around these parts.

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