The Privacy BlogPrivacy, Security, Cryptography, and Anonymity

CAT | Google

China open gate

Multiple sources are reporting that Google services are once again available in China. They had been blocked in the lead up to the 25th anniversary of Tiananmen Square protests.

Access to Google services within China returns | Reuters

Lance Cottrell is the Founder and Chief Scientist of Anonymizer. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

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Google IllegalFlowerTribute1

In anticipation of possible protests in memory of the Tiananmen Square massacre 25 years ago, China has blocked access to Google search and Gmail. The censorship has been in place for a few days now, suggesting that this may be more than a short term action.

China has long blocked access to YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and services which would circumvent the blocking, like Anonymizer.

Google search, and Gmail are both popular in China. It will be interesting to see if this actually draws attention to the anniversary, rather than diffusing it.

The image with this post is from 2010 when Google moved out of their China offices to avoid government control. (via Wikipedia)

Lance Cottrell is the Founder and Chief Scientist of Anonymizer. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

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May/14

30

How to be forgotten (if you are in the EU)

Do forget note

Earlier this month I talked about the ECJ ruling against Google on the “right to be forgotten.”

Google has now set up a web form and process for making these requests. You need to provide your name, the URLs you want hidden, and an explanation of why the URL is “irrelevant, outdated, or otherwise inappropriate”.

Google will then make the call about whether your request will be honored. They will “assess each individual request and attempt to balance the privacy rights of the individual with the public’s right to know and distribute information. When evaluating your request, we will look at whether the results include outdated information about you, as well as whether there’s a public interest in the information—for example, information about financial scams, professional malpractice, criminal convictions, or public conduct of government officials.”

Remember, this only removes that URL from Google searches for your name, not from other searches, other search engines, or from the underlying website.

Lance Cottrell is the Founder and Chief Scientist of Anonymizer. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

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Apr/14

3

Don’t be an Ostrich about open Wi-Fi

Wi-Fi router with lockBack in 2010 I blogged about Google’s legal troubles over capturing sensitive open Wi-Fi data with their Street View cars.

In a nutshell, Google was accused of violating the federal Wiretap Act when it intercepted the data on open Wi-Fi networks it passed. The purpose was to capture just the MAC addresses of the base stations to improve their enhanced location services. It appears that recording small amounts of data was accidental. Certainly if they were trying to collect data, they could easily have grabbed much more.

Google lost that case and is now appealing to the Supreme Court, hoping to overturn the decision.

Obviously it was inappropriate for a company like Google to drive around sniffing people’s Wi-Fi traffic, but they are not really the threat. What we all need to be worried about is hackers war driving our neighborhoods, either using our networks to hide their illegal activities, or capturing our personal information for their own purposes.

Whatever the legal outcome of whether it is “OK” to sniff someone’s open Wi-Fi traffic, the reality is that people do, and doing so is trivial. Anyone with a laptop can download free software and be sucking down all the Internet activity in their local coffee shop in just minutes. I think laws like this give a false sense of security. It is like saying that, as you walk down the sidewalk, you can not look in through your neighbor’s big picture window at night when they leave the curtains open.

Thinking that people are “not allowed” to sniff your open Wi-Fi just gives a false sense of security. What we need to do is make sure that ALL Wi-Fi is securely encrypted. Even public Wi-Fi should be encrypted, even if the password is “password” and is posted prominently on the wall. Using encryption changes the situation from looking though a window as you walk by to drilling a peep hole through the wall.

None of should be in denial about this. Open Wi-Fi is insecure. It will be sniffed.

If you find yourself in a situation where you have to use an open Wi-Fi hotspot, for whatever reason, make sure you immediately establish a VPN to protect yourself. I might be biased, but I use Anonymizer Universal for this purpose.

Lance Cottrell is the Founder and Chief Scientist of Anonymizer. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Google+.

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Email in crosshairs

A Stranger Can Find Out Where You Are By Getting You To Open An Email – On The Media

The ability to use remotely loaded images in HTML emails for tracking has been known for years, but perhaps not widely known.

The On The Media: TLDR podcast just re-surfaced the issue in the above article, where they talk about a free Gmail plugin called Streak, which provides this capability.

It automatically embeds the hidden images in emails you send, then lets you see when and even where the recipient opens them.

Because they appear to use IP address based locations, you can block the “where” part by using Anonymizer Universal.

You can block this tracking completely by turning off the loading of images in your emails. Of course, if you then choose to load images, know that you are also enabling tracking. If you block image loading you will also find that your email become much less attractive and significantly more difficult to read.

Lance Cottrell is the Founder and Chief Scientist of Anonymizer. Follow me on Facebook and Google+.

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