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Google Goes HTTPS!

Google
(Image used under: Creative Commons 2.0 [SRC])

In a move that has most people saying "huh?", Google launches SSL search capability! By adding HTTPS to the front of your bookmark or homepage like so: https://www.google.com, you will be using Google's new service.

This is the same as Google's normal search engine with a few important differences:

  1. Searches are encrypted from your browser to Google. While Google still knows who you are and everything you search for, anyone between you and them no longer will (thus the magic of HTTPS). So now when you're on the road (cafe, hotel, airport etc), the people who run or are listening to that network traffic won't be able to see what you search for or what results Google sends back.
  2. Any results you click will not forward a "Referrer" value. Normally, when you click a link, the page you visit gets to see where you just came from (called the referrer value). Since the page you came from was a Google search and the search terms are part of the URL, every page you visit gets to see the terms you used to find them. Google SSL removes that keeping your search terms private from websites you visit.

Combine this with the "private" browsing functions of all major Internet browsers and you'll leave little to no record of anything you search on your computer or the networks in-between. It still doesn't solve the problem of Google recording your search history against your will, but it's a great start!

Note that only web search and not others (like image search) are secured at this time, but Google may be looking to add those in the future.

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DuckDuckGo – New Search Engine Choice or Dud?

DuckDuckGo.com
(Image is in the Public Domain)

Every now and then, there's a new search engine released that tries to play with the big boys, but they often fail. Usually its because of speed, maybe financial backing, sometimes user interface, but most often because they don't do the job well.

So here's one that may be worth some attention. Like Google, they focus on keeping very minimal and having a nice interface. But unlike Google, they make an effort to help you find what you are actually looking for:

They also include some summary information right in the search making it possible to skip visiting the site at all if you don't need to or at least getting a better feel for what the site is about before going. And according to their About page, they store NO personal information (which has long been a complaint of mine about Google).

So far, they're doing a lot right, but with Google having just released HTTPS for searches, the competition is even stiffer. I wish them luck.

Check them out yourself here.

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Schneier – Privacy is NOT Dead

Great summary of privacy from Bruce Schneier:

You've got a whole lot of tech CEOs proclaiming the death of privacy–especially when it comes to young people.

They're not technically sophisticated about privacy and make mistakes all the time, but that's mostly the fault of companies and Web sites that try to manipulate them for financial gain.

Hear, hear! Click here for the rest of the article.

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Google Dashboard is a Good Step for Privacy

Better privacy controls? Yes please!

For as long as Google has existed, it has been and continues to be my favorite search engine by far. I like the company, their services, and just about everything about them except for one thing: abysmal privacy policies.

Though Google has legitimate use for storing search records to see how long it takes someone to find what they're looking for, there's no need to store an IP address along with the search records. Any unique identifier would work. There's certainly no reason why Google should store your records for 18 months, let alone 18 minutes.

To be fair, sometimes they get things right like when they strongly resisted government invasion of search records, but the information is there and that creates a risk.

While that issue is still in the air, Google recently made another step in the right direction with their Google Dashboard feature. When logged into any Google service, you can go to http://www.google.com/dashboard to see a consolidated listing of everything Google knows about you. Documents, chat records, search history, etc.

The service gives you single-page access to the privacy controls for every service that you're using with Google. This not only makes what they have on you more transparent, but easier to manage. Granted, they have more work to do in giving you control over what's stored and what isn't, you can at least delete some of the data. For instance, if you've made searches in the past that list your home address or medical information and you don't want Google to have that on file, you can delete it.

Of course, that doesn't get rid of every copy that exists, but it at leasts takes it out of their current records and makes it less likely to get swooped up by government snooping or any future data breaches that Google might suffer. All in all, a very good step in the right direction so make sure to check it out if you use Google services.

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Compare Bing to Google

Bing
(Image used under: Creative Commons 2.0 [SRC])

The first search engine to ever challenge Google has finally arrived and it's from Microsoft. Once you quit laughing, you should really give it a try. Microsoft's Bing has a lot of potential and several features that are actually better than Google (here and there).

If you want to just compare the two side by side, try http://www.bingandgoogle.com/. Enter a search term and the site will submit it to both search engines for you and show you the first page of results side by side. Happy hunting!!

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City in Montana Demands Your Login Details to be Hired

Mugging
(Image used under: Creative Commons 2.0 [SRC])

This is so wrong, I barely know what to say. I sure hope this trend doesn't start to catch on, because a lot of people would give up the information when they're pressured instead of doing the right thing and refusing.

"Please list any and all, current personal or business websites, web pages or memberships on any Internet-based chat rooms, social clubs or forums, to include, but not limited to: Facebook, Google, Yahoo, YouTube.com, MySpace, etc." the form reads. But Bozeman isn't simply interested in finding out where to look for potentially embarrassing personal details; the city wants full disclosure, since the form demands username and password information for each.

This is way worse than all those sickening social networking sites asking for your e-mail address password.

Update

Here is the contact information for the relevant people in the city if you want to ask them why they thought this would be a good idea. And just in case someone were to change the form, here's a copy of the original found on their website:
This is for real... they actually expect you to give up your account details!
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Beware Google Browser’s License Agreement

Read the terms, don't like what you see.
(Image used under: Creative Commons 2.0 [SRC])

As I suspected, a product from a company like Google shouldn't be trusted without scrutiny. They've developed a new open-source Internet browser to compete with Firefox and Internet Explorer, but if you read carefully, you might notice this:

You retain copyright and any other rights you already hold in Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services. By submitting, posting or displaying the content you give Google a perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive license to reproduce, adapt, modify, translate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute any Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services. This license is for the sole purpose of enabling Google to display, distribute and promote the Services and may be revoked for certain Services as defined in the Additional Terms of those Services.

11.2 You agree that this license includes a right for Google to make such Content available to other companies, organizations or individuals with whom Google has relationships for the provision of syndicated services, and to use such Content in connection with the provision of those services.

So anything you submit through the Google browser can be stored and used for either promotion purposes or for selling to 3rd parties. In other words, Google browser is nothing more than the most sophisticated data-brokering device yet created (or spyware in other words).

Google may have the best search engine around, but their privacy policies are and have always been complete crap.

2008 Sept, 04 Update

Well that was fast. Google has updated it's EULA to remove any reference to them holding rights to what you own. It looks like they just cut-and-pasted their EULA from Google docs (which still has that problem). Now it reads like this:
11.1 You retain copyright and any other rights that you already hold in Content that you submit, post or display on or through the Services.
Surprisingly forward thinking.
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Google Exec Nailed By His Own Privacy Invading Service

Google
(Image used under: Creative Commons 2.0 [SRC])

In the mad rush to create a value-adding product at the expense of privacy (wow, where have we heard that before?), Google execs failed to consider that they too might be on the losing end of Google Streetview. A privacy group has just released a ton of personal information that could cause all kinds of problems for Google exec Larry Page. The key is that the information was gathered only from Google Streetview and in about 30 minutes.

Hopefully it will lead to positive changes to the service, but it's far more likely to lead to an obscuring of just the Google execs' data.

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Cuil (Cool) New Search Engine

Google
(Image used under: Creative Commons 2.0 [SRC])

As with most new search engines, it's not that impressive out of the box. It doesn't seem to return much in the way of more relevant results than any other page, but the makers of Cuil (pronounced COOL) are saying that they index more pages than any other search engine. Because their algorithms analyze the content of the pages and categorize that way, in theory, they should return better results.

Their advantages are a clean, simple interface (like Google), but unlike Google, they don't keep logs and records of your searches to track you. As this is my only real complaint against Google, if they could just do as well as Google with the search results, but have better privacy, then perhaps Google's time is done.

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Google to Store Health Record Data

They dropped their "don't be evil" motto for a reason
(Image used under: Creative Commons 2.0 [SRC])

I…. I just don't have the strength to explain why this is a bad idea today. "Do no evil". Yeah… ok. You forgot about, don't do something that will make it easy for evil people to do evil, but I guess that wouldn't look as good as a company motto.

Oh, but don't worry! Your data will be protected by your Google account password! I feel better already…

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Using HTTPS For Secure Login and Payment Online

Making online accounts is useful and fun, but doesn't mean much if someone can capture your login information and use it against you. Make sure to use this simple trick to prevent that from happening.

[Click for full description]

Using HTTPS For Secure Login and Payment Online

Making online accounts is useful and fun, but doesn't mean much if someone can capture your login information and use it against you. Make sure to use this simple trick to prevent that from happening.

[Click for full description]