Disables Third-Party Tracking While Keeping Webapps Operational-Disconnect

Disconnect for Chrome Disables Third-Party Tracking While Keeping Webapps OperationalChrome/Rockmelt: It always seems like a simple, if brutal, call: either keep your cookies, or lose access to a working Gmail, Facebook, and other neat services. Enter Disconnect, an extension that de-personalizes your browsing without cutting off necessary functionality.

Install Disconnect in Chrome or Rockmelt, and you’ll notice it starts building up a tally in its taskbar icon. Click the button, and you can see how many requests—where you came from, where you’re going, what you searched for before, whether your Facebook friends like this page, etc.—Disconnect has blocked from Google, Twitter, Facebook, and other services. Webapps can still do their basic magic, but they lose sight of you as a person whose decisions they can easily track.

Disconnect is a free download for Chrome and the Rockmelt variation. It’s also open source and made by a former Google employee.

Disconnect [via TechCrunch]

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New Bill Provides the Fed Power to Shut Down the Internet

Connecticut Senator, and chairman of the Homeland Security committee, Joseph Lieberman introduced legislation last week that would grant broad new emergency powers over the Internetto the federal government. The Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act (PCNAA) would require broadband providers, search engines, and software companies to comply with emergency orders issued by the Department of Homeland Security under penalty of fine.

In the event of a national emergency, the bill would grant the power to control, and even shut down, large swaths of the Internet to the National Center for Cybersecurity and Communications (NCCC), a new office created within the DHS by the PCNAA. The legislation has garnered support from Senators Jay Rockefeller and Olympia Snowe who proposed similar powers last August, but it’s bound to run into serious opposition from tech lobbyists, privacy groups and those who wish to limit the power of the federal government.

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Of course, similar legislation was introduced August of last year and that was shot down so maybe I need to take my tinfoil hat off. Still, the idea of a single point of failure for the entire US Internet infrastructure is frightening. If our cyber security is so poor that we need a kill switch for the Internet then how can we be assured that security around that kill switch would be strong enough to prevent hackers, or an unfriendly government, from accessing and using the kill switch?

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Facebooks Posts By Everyone Feature Exposes Dirty Secrets Online

SearchEngineLand‘s Dan Sullivan goes into detail on how Facebook’s “Posts By Everyone” feature works. It’s an interesting read, the beginning of which is below. Even more interesting is some of the stuff people expose online which I’ve outlined at the bottom of the article.

Searching Everyone’s Updates

You might have missed Facebook’s “Posts By Everyone” feature. It’s easy to overlook because search results aren’t shown by default. Consider this search for hungover:

Hungover Search On Facebook

When you start typing, Facebook suggests some options right within the search box. Pick any of those, and you go directly to a person, page or application, rather than overall search results. It’s easy to do this by hitting enter, so that you never get the search results at all.

If you go to the very bottom, there’s a “More Results” option as highlighted above. Click that, and a broader set of results appears: Hungover Search On Facebook

Notice on the left-hand side of the results, there are options to get results back from all these categories:

  • All Results
  • People
  • Pages
  • Groups
  • Applications
  • Events
  • Web Results
  • Posts By Friends
  • Posts By Everyone

In the search results above, you can see that “All Results” is highlighted, so I should be getting back results from all these categories. However, that’s not what happens. Instead, Facebook only brings back results from matching Pages, Posts By Friends and Web Results. That’s it.

(This, by the way, is just one example of why I often joke to people who warn that Facebook will beat Google in search that Facebook has enough problems searching Facebook itself, much less the entire web.)

Now look what happens if I drill in to the “Posts By Everyone” category:

Hungover Search On Facebook

Suddenly I see what Facebook failed to show me before, all the people on Facebook telling the world about their hangovers. You can read the rest of the post which details mobile sharing and how to control your privacy here.

Now for the dirty little secrets

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See What Facebook Publishes About You

With Facebook’s new Open Graph API causing such a stir, many people are questioning what Facebook is publishing to the public. Developer Ka-Ping Yee has created a simple tool shows you what everyone else can see.

To check your profile for public information, all you need to do is load up the tool and type in your Facebook ID—this is the name right after facebook.com/ on your profile page (if you haven’t set a username, it’s the string of numbers at the end of the URL). Alternatively, you can search for your name or email address.

The tool will then load all your profile information. All your information outside the “metadata” box is public (for example, in the above picture, that means that everyone can see my “website” links). To see if a particular section within the metadata box (such as activities, favorite movies, etc.) is visible to the public click on its link—if it comes up empty, it’s not viewable to the public. Note, though, that if it’s not public, it may very well be viewable to friends of your friends, which is still pretty darn public—so check your privacy settings to be sure it’s what you want. If clicking on a section comes up with something like the picture below, then everything listed is available for the public—and any web site that uses the Open Graph API—to see.

If you find that your profile is much more public than you thought, make sure you know how to restore your privacy.

What does Facebook publish about you and your friends?

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Google to Launch Alternative to DNS

They’ve already released specs for a replacement for HTTP called SPDY. Now it looks as if Google is set for all out Internet takeover by replacing DNS. DNS (Domain Name Service) is used to translate the web friendly named addresses user type in their browser (like www.PaulSpoerry.com) into their machine friendly IP (Internet Protocol) numerical addresses (like 122.222.12.221).

Google Public DNS, announced on Thursday, is still in an experimental phase but will attempt to improve on existing DNS technology with faster, more efficient caching and additional security safeguards against spoofing attacks that try to dupe users into visiting malicious Web sites.

To use Google Public DNS users will have to change network settings so that their Web site requests go to the Google service instead of to their ISP. Google has set up a Web page with detailed instructions on how to do this.

“We believe that a faster DNS infrastructure could significantly improve the browsing experience for all web users. To enhance DNS speed but to also improve security and validity of results, Google Public DNS is trying a few different approaches,” wrote Prem Ramaswami, from Google’s Public DNS Team, in an official blog posting.

This is interesting and I wonder how much better than can do than OpenDNS by rolling out a new DNS infrastructure.

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