Ars Technica‘s David Kravets recentlyposted an article about claims that the use of special face paint and changes in hairstyle can evade face recognition scanners used at public events. While the reflective makeup might confuse the scanners, it definitely makes a person stick out from the crowd, as the following photo illustrates:
A recent article at privacy-advocacy website ProPublica reported that advertisers had developed a new method of tracking users which cannot be blocked, called “canvas fingerprinting,” which doesn’t need to set browser cookies. The report specifically stated that Adblock Plus was unable to thwart this type of tracking.
Today, DSL Reports disputed that claim, citing the Adblock Plus developer himself as stating that ABP’s Easy Privacy list has blocked that type of tracking for the last five years. The free add-ons Disconnect and Ghostery have also been blocking the social widget sites AddThis and Ligatus, the primary users of canvas fingerprinting, by default.
In sum, anyone who uses a comprehensive privacy add-on (or Tracking Protection List for MSIE) should not be at risk for “evercookies,” canvas fingerprinting, or most of the other recently disclosed commercial tracking techniques.
Edit: I discovered a discrepancy with the comments by the ABP developer. At the Easy List forum, the Easy Privacy maintainers said they have just added filters for known persistent tracking scripts pursuant to the recent canvas fingerprinting disclosures, implying that they may not have been blocked by Easy Privacy until now.
Just when you thought that Facebook couldn’t get any creepier, CBS News reports this little gem:
“When Facebook users check out the new television show lineup this fall on their smartphone or tablet, the social network will be watching too. In a partnership with Nielsen, the TV ratings measurement company, if users have used Facebook on their mobile devices, the social network will be able to gather data on the shows they watch and provide Nielsen with viewership information.”
H/T MrBrian @ Wilders Security
Public WiFi in the UK just got a lot less friendly. A new campaign there aims to block so-called adult content from WiFi hot spots such as those found in coffee shops and hotels, supposedly to keep children from viewing porn, although I am more inclined to wonder why unattended children are hanging around coffee shops or hotels in the first place. According to Xbiz, the UK anti-porn filters are currently blocking about 20% of the world’s websites, many in error, so a lot of material is going to be censored.
The article below states that Tesco, Starbucks, and Samsung have signed on to this stealth censorship campaign, so you might want to keep that in mind when deciding whether to buy from those companies.
A new campaign to block porn from public Wi-Fi hot spots has been launched in the U.K. Read More>>
In an effort to add meaningful competition to the typical wireline broadband duopoly in most of the US, some cites and towns have tried to experiment with offering free or low-cost municipal WiFi service. The FCC has even expressed interest in supporting these experiments, but ISP lobbyists have turned to state legislatures to prohibit these measures. As the always-interesting BGR reports, some legislators are now claiming that “states’ rights” prevents the FCC from aiding municipal broadband efforts:
“Let them eat dial-up!” is how the article characterizes the congresswoman’s attitude. One may also note that the “states’ rights” claim has historically been used to argue against federal protection for various disfavored groups, especially racial minorities and more recently, LGBT people. I believe that FCC reclassification of broadband under Title II would reduce state legislatures’ ability to impair competition under dubious claims of federalism.
The National Journal reports that the US House of Representatives has approved an extension of a law that prevents states from imposing taxes and fees for Internet access, although many ISP’s themselves already tack on a myriad of weird, hidden charges, often described as “regulatory” or “recovery” fees. Curiously, the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, which usually makes sane proposals, wants the Internet to be taxed because it thinks that states would use the money to “help” poor people, although I think that adding new taxes onto already-expensive Internet access would only make things harder for low-income customers. (As previously discussed at this blog, most government “help” for low-income Internet access in the US has consisted of enormous, fraud-plagued subsidies for school and library broadband, which only helps a small percentage of people in need.) To make things even more interesting, The Hill reports that the Senate might try to sneak in an attachment to the Internet tax ban which would allow states to collect inherently regressive sales taxes on Internet purchases, which might be almost as bad as an Internet access tax.
Tomorrow is the last day of the extended time period for Americans to comment on recently proposed FCC open Internet rules — previously discussed at this blog — that could significantly affect the price and availability of various online services, particularly streaming videos. If you wish, you may use the following link to send a pre-written comment to the FCC in favor of reclassifying Internet service as a Title II common carrier, which would offer the highest level of protection for Net Neutrality by treating Internet service as a utility (like telephone service) rather than as an “information service”:
Last week, Todd Glider of the mature-content website Badoink wrote an open letter to Google about the latter’s sudden decision to ban adult advertising at the behest of the purity league “Morality in Media.” His detailed, insightful letter addresses many of the recent problems between Google and legal adult businesses, and I highly recommend reading it.
Although the AdWords ban has been well publicized, Glider also notes that MIM claims that Google additionally “will also no longer link to sites that contain [adult] materials, no matter how benign their advertising,” meaning that adult content would be completely de-indexed from Google search results. He indicates that even though his company has spent millions of dollars on Google ads, he couldn’t get a Google rep to answer his questions about exactly what would be considered a “graphic depiction,” and therefore prohibited.
Glider reiterates that Google holds a near-monopoly on Internet content indexing and points out the hypocrisy of a company that claims it doesn’t want to “do evil” censoring legal content. He notes that hate sites, for example, are now easier to find on Google than many legal adult sites like Badoink.
I would add that if Google does strip adult content out of its organic search results, services that are powered by Google, such as StartPage.com (which I have recommended), would also be affected. At this time, it may be prudent for customers to begin migrating to alternative search engines such as DuckDuckGo or Ixquick, which do not depend on Google search results. Webmasters may wish to consider focusing SEO efforts on Bing and Yahoo instead of Google until the organic search situation becomes more clear.
NBC’s serious-voiced, Peabody Award-winning newsman Brian Williams showed off his humorous side in a broadcast last week, in which he explained a Washington, D.C. “baby boom” which occurred nine months after the temporary government shutdown:
How long until someone on television points out that during the shutdown the folks in Washington are apparently doing at home what Washington has been accused of doing to the American people? We’re guessing someone will say that on television before long.
The video wasn’t working when I last checked, but credit to Mediaite.com for the story 🙂
Image credit: Peabody Awards
Following up on my previous posts about Facebook, Sumofus has a good explanation of the company’s proposed privacy changes, along with a petition which users can sign to express their objection to Zuckerberg’s unbridled data mining.