The Tor Project seeks broader public support through a crowdfunding drive

December 5th, 2015 | Edited by | software


Details were sparse, but the company’s said before it wants to expand its hidden services.


Even online anonymity and privacy need a crowd of sorts–crowdfunders, to be specific. The Tor Project recently kicked off a crowdfunding drive, using journalist and filmmaker Laura Poitras as an example of the importance of the online anonymity tools.
In a blog post announcing the funding drive, Tor quotes Poitras saying that she never could have worked on and help break the Snowden story without Tor. Poitras worked with Glenn Greenwald on the initial revelations from documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. She also directed the Snowden documentary Citizenfour. “Tor is an essential tool that…fosters free speech and independent voices,” she said.
Tor’s blog post on Tuesday didn’t have much in the way of specifics about the new crowdfunding drive or what motivated it. The Tor Project did not respond to a request for comment in time for this story.
Nevertheless, the group did say in March that it wanted to gather more funds from individuals to help make Tor hidden services more widely available. Basically, the group wants to make hidden services easier to use, more secure, and increase the user base for hidden services. “Anything you can build on the Internet, you can build on hidden services,” the non-profit group said in March. “But they’re better…anonymity is built in.”
Hidden services allow users to connect to online products and services such as websites, blogs, forums, and chat clients. The big difference, however, is that the user and the site they are connecting to don’t have to give up identifying information, allowing for a higher degree of anonymity.


Spotify cleans up privacy mess with plain language policy update

September 12th, 2015 | Edited by | software


Spotify is making amends for its privacy policy mistakes with plainer, clearer language.

“What do you mean?” has been a big theme around Spotify in recent weeks. Justin Bieber’s tune of the same name just had the biggest first week for a single on Spotify to date. The phrase also sums up perfectly the public reaction to Spotify’s recently revised privacy policy.


Spotify is now hoping to clear up the confusion that sparked panic, an apology, and at least one heated conversation on Twitter. Ek took to the company blog on Thursday to announce some revisions to the privacy policy that the company hopes will clear up any confusion.
“We did our best to explain the intent behind the changes in the Policy and our commitment to our users’ privacy,” Ek said. “We took note of many people’s comments that they appreciated the clear commitments in the blog post that were easier to understand than some of the details in the Policy itself.”
To that end, Spotify said it has introduced a plain language introduction to the policy. The revision is meant to clarify what the company’s “approach and principles” are regarding privacy.
“We still need to provide greater detail in the body of the policy,” Ek said. “But those details are, and will always be, in keeping with the fundamental privacy principles we outline in the Introduction.”
Basically, the new introduction clarifies many of the objections people brought up with the new privacy policy in August. It addresses how the company would handle access to your photos, contacts, microphone, and why it wants access to your device sensors.
Spotify says it would only access photos that you explicitly choose, for example. The company also categorically states the company “will never scan or import your photo library or camera roll.”
If you want to give it a read, Ek posted the new introduction in full in his blog post.
Why this matters: Spotify wasn’t the first company to run afoul with its users and the press after a change to its privacy policy. But it could be the last. Spotify’s clear language introduction that addresses specific issues is a change that all technology companies should adopt. Using plain language shows a basic respect for your users and allows people to understand what data you want from them and why.


The Internet of Things and the currency of privacy

July 4th, 2015 | Edited by | software


If you’re like most people, you share a lot of personal information with companies like Google and Facebook for the convenience their free services provide. In turn, these companies sell your tastes and preferences to marketers, probably for less than $2 a pop.
You read that right. The Financial Times created an online calculator to estimate how much your data is worth down to the penny. Mine is worth $1.55. Face it: Privacy is a commodity; even a form of currency. And everybody’s info is worth a different dollar figure – to marketers, and to you.
As the Internet of Things (IoT) proliferates, providing us with more connected gadgets, marketers will get to know you even better. Consider what your watch, your light bulbs, and your refrigerator can add to the conversation.
The advertising industry is already salivating over the Internet of Things’ potential. “The primary benefit of the IoT to marketers is the remarkable consumer data it provides,” wrote Marko Muellner in a ClickZ article. (ClickZ is a news site for the marketing industry.)


Big data keep on turnin’

According to George Lee, the Chief Information Officer of Goldman Sachs’ Investment Banking Division, “Ninety percent of the world’s data has been created in the last two years.” The large Internet companies are the primary collectors of this massive assemblage of bits.
We’re all complicit in these data gathering methods. We choose to join social networks, and we tell them where we are and what we’re doing. We carry smartphones that, by their very nature, track our location. And we sign off on the collection and use of this data as a mandatory and cursory matter when we sign up for any new service.
And most of the time, there are no negative results. The corporations will use your data for targeted advertising and market research, creating a smarter and more efficient system for ecommerce.
Still, many people feel uncomfortable with these practices. A growing awareness of exactly how these big data tools work is leading people to be more guarded about the information they share online. In the future, as they become perpetually more connected and ingrained in the economy of information, consumers will look to strike a clearer definition of what data they see as ‘private’, what they are willing to provide in exchange for services, and what kind of a price tag to put on it. Armed with the right knowledge and outlook, you can make this arrangement work to your advantage.

Know the tradeoffs and buy in with your eyes open

ClickZ’s Muellner acknowledges that “We’ll only get access to that data by providing real value in exchange.” In other words, consumers won’t turn over their personal information unless they get something out of it, like a free online service or a smart home convenience. By gauging the value of that service or convenience against an understanding of the type of information it can accumulate, you can intelligently weigh the risks and make an informed decision about the value of your privacy.


Cut the cord and leave cable TV behind

July 2nd, 2015 | Edited by | software


The FCC’s most recent report on the cost of cable found that the price of expanded basic cable service increased by 5.1 percent in 2012, and additional reports show that those prices have continued to rise, unabated, ever since.
Millions of consumers are now cutting the cord that provides television services while keeping the one that provides broadband internet. The idea: Replace traditional broadcasting with video streaming and downloading services so you can access the same television programs you love via the web.


 Streaming Services

The centerpiece of this strategy usually begins with leveraging streaming services likeNetflix, Amazon Prime Instant Video, and Hulu Plus, many of which provide subscribers with recently-broadcast television programming, complete seasons of past TV episodes, and multi-device compatibility so you can watch on TV, your computer, or via a mobile phone or tablet. Each service tends to have specific strengths – Hulu is more focused on current television shows, while Netflix has the best movie selection. Also, many of these services offer programs that aren’t available on other services – including original programming that isn’t available on cable TV at all – so serious cord-cutters often find they need to subscribe to a multitude of streaming systems to watch everything they want to see.
Remember that an old-school antenna is always another option. With a powerful digital antenna, network programming is free (and much higher in quality than you probably remember from the old days). Newer high-tech services, including Sling TV,Roku’s product line, and the Google Chromecast, are all options that can give you access to streaming content to help you eliminate the cable company as the bloated middleman.

 Video Download Services

If you’re the kind of person that collects programs – especially movies – for repeated watching, it often makes sense not just to stream video, but to download it for the long term. Programming stored on your own hard drive isn’t dependent on having a fast, uncongested to keep it going, so it can be watched even if the cable goes offline – and once you download it, it never disappears. (Streaming service contracts are generally time-limited, so a movie available on Netflix today may no longer be streamable tomorrow.)
Video content – either movies or individual episodes of television programs – can be downloaded from several services, including iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, andGoogle Play. Movies can be stored on individual devices, but these can eat up a huge amount of space on a storage-strapped smartphone, particularly if the movie is encoded at HD quality. A better idea: Store movies on a NAS device that every (authorized) device in the house can access. A QNAP Turbo NAS like the TS-453 Procan work perfectly as a central media server for all your downloaded content – and it can also do additional jobs like storing (and streaming) your downloaded music files, home videos, and other computer files.
Accessing centrally stored video is becoming easier than ever. Smartphones and tablets will require a service-specific app, and apps like QNAP’s Qvideo or Qfile make it easy to stream video directly from your NAS. Both Qvideo and Qfile stream video stored on your QNAP NAS directly to your phones or tablets, as well as streaming directly to Chromecast devices attached to a TV, or Apple TV via Airplay. Qfile can even sync media among computers on your LAN to back up and synchronize media on all your devices.
With all these options available and more on the horizon, more and more people are discovering that there’s no reason to shell out big bucks each month for the cable company’s rising prices and poor service. Cut the cord, and leverage streaming services and downloaded video to access the movies and television programming you want, when you want it.

Source: www.pcworld

Iceland and beyond: Exploring offshore web hosting

June 2nd, 2015 | Edited by | software


When shopping for a web host, some business owners first look at solutions that are close to home. That’s a natural response, but in many cases, an offshore host might make more sense.
Here’s a look at some of the advantages that an offshore web host can provide.



Web site loading times are directly impacted by the distance data has to travel from the host to the user requesting the web page. If you live in San Francisco, a server physically located in Los Angeles will tend to be more responsive than one located in New York. But it’s unlikely that all of your users live in San Francisco, and not all are likely to live in the United States, even. America is a big place. Did you know that New York is actually closer to Iceland than it is to San Francisco? Additionally, your European customers accessing servers in Iceland are likely to receive a response faster than from servers in the U.S. In reality, the differences in load times among servers in the U.S., Europe, and in between are unlikely to be significant, but if you’re looking to provide the highest level of performance to the broadest number of potential users, offshore web hosting deserve serious consideration.

Security and Privacy

The NSA’s invasive surveillance and data interception practices became headline news in 2013, and while groups like the EFF are fighting back, it seems that no U.S. provider has been safe from the agency’s clutches. The emphasis in that statement is on U.S. providers. The NSA has no jurisdiction over offshore servers, which means data stored on these systems is safe from prying eyes. National laws regarding who can demand access to data vary from country to country, but Iceland is highly regarded for its strict protection of data privacy – going even further than the European Union’s liberal privacy regulations. Legislation is in the works to strengthen these regulations even further as part of Iceland’sInternational Modern Media Initiative. Even if you run a website where privacy doesn’t seem to be a critical issue, think about how your users view privacy – and what kind of message it sends if you tell them how highly you value it, too. As well, any good web host, regardless of where it’s located, should offer secure tools to protect your account, such as data encryption and two-factor authentication.


As users we don’t see it, but web hosting eats up a lot of energy, and that energy has to come from somewhere. In the U.S., that typically means the power grid, which is largely energized through the burning of carbon-spewing fossil fuels. What’s more, the more popular your website becomes, the more energy it uses, which means a larger carbon footprint and higher contribution to pollution and greenhouse gases. It isn’t like this everywhere, though. Iceland’s electrical power is generated almost exclusively from geothermal and hydropower sources. Utilizing a green host powered by sustainable energy may make you feel better about the kind of business you’re running. Plus, making an effort to be sustainable sends a powerful message to your customers about your commitment to the planet.


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