Hide My IP Address: How to Browse a Website without Visiting It

In this article, we'll provide a few tips and tricks on how to use a couple simple advanced web searches to browse a website without actually visiting the target site, effectively remaining invisible to the site's proprietors. Maybe the website is blocked on the computer you are using. Maybe the site seems somewhat sketchy and you want to check it out before you actually visit it. Maybe you want to read some content on the site, while depriving them of your own web traffic. Maybe you don't want the site's proprietors to know your IP address. Whatever the case may be, if you have access to Google, you may very well be able to see the content you are looking for without ever connecting to the site in question.


For this article, we are going to use the website mediaite.com as our example target website. It has a good amount of content, and is structured in a way that will make our demonstration fairly clear. If we just do a simple Google search for the name of the site, mediaite, Google will return hits for the site itself, its Twitter page, a Wikipedia article, its Facebook page, references to it from other sites and so on.

This is not very useful for seeing what sorts of content are on mediaite.com. We are thus going to use an advanced search operator so that Google only returns results that are from mediate.com itself.

Advanced Operator: Google Site Search  

Google allows for the use of so-called "advanced search operators" in its search bar. With these operators, you can easily filter the results of your searches to only return specific types of content. One such advanced search operator, the site search operator, only returns results from a specific website. To run a search that will only return results from our target site, we use the operator term, then a colon, then the full address of the site. So, in the present case, we would enter the following into the Google search bar: site:mediate.com

Now we are getting somewhere. You'll notice that Google now only returns page results that are from our target site itself. We can get an overview of tons of content from our target site just from browsing through these results, to see what pages from the target Google has already indexed.

Browsing a Website's Cached Pages 

Okay, that's all well and good, but we want to actually read content on the site itself, not just get an overview of its various pages! Notice, in the image above, or in any Google search results, that next to the web address of the page, there is a little downward pointing triangle. This is a dropdown menu. Click on the triangle and the dropdown menu will pop up, with two options: Cached and Similar. 

If you click on the "Cached" link, this will take you directly to the most recent snapshot of that page that Google has indexed. Here is a screen grab of Google's cached version of Mediaite's "Contact Us" page:

Notice the web address of this page: webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache . . . We are not viewing the page on the target server itself! We are viewing a snapshot of that page on one of Google's servers. Now, Google's Cached pages are NOT necessarily a snapshot of what that page looks like right now. But a widget at the top of the Cached page will tell you exactly when this snapshot was created.  

Search a Site for Specific Cached Content

Now that we know how to search only for results from a specific site, and read that site's content through Google's cached pages, we can do a site search for specific terms and then read Google's cached results for any of those pages. To do this, all we have to do is add our key term to the site search. Let's say, we wanted to search for articles on the CIA at Mediaite. It's pretty simple: site:mediaite.com CIA

Once you've found the content you're looking for in this way, all you have to do is click through to Google's cached page, and you are reading the desired content from your target site without ever visiting it!

Conclusion and Caveats

With the help of Google's site search and cached pages, we can easily locate and browse content on a target website without ever visiting that site. This means the proprietors of that site have no way of knowing what our IP address is, or when we read their content, or even that we ever read it at all. But we do have a couple caveats here. Since we are using Google, Google's servers still have a record of our IP address, what we searched for, when we accessed the cached page and so on. But the goal here was to hide this information from the target site, not from the search engine. Secondly, it is possible that the Cached page you are reading does not reflect the current content of the page. For example, if a website publishes a page, and then Google created a cached version of the page, but then the target website updates their page, the data in the Google cache will be stale and out of date, until the cache is updated again. That's why it is important to look at the timestamp on the cached page, to get a sense of how old or out of date the content may be. And finally, it is possible that Google has not indexed or has no cached page of the specific content you are looking for. If that is the case, then you are out of luck trying to use this method of quasi-anonymous web browsing. 
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Sucking Dox: Facial Recognition Software Used To Harass Porn Stars' Real Identities

Facial recognition software has long been touted as a necessary aide to combat crimes, from street-level surveillance up to complex police analysis of individuals' tattoos for identification.  Now, a piece of software that allows you to search for faces as easily as one might search for a cupcake recipe has backfired to those who don't really want to be identified...well, for their facial features, at least.

They sell their bodies for a living, which enrages those who'd never get a buyer,
or any kind of lover at all.
(Image courtesy monsters4ever.com.)

According to Global Voices Advox, the new FindFace software was developed as a comprehensive means of facilitating communication between parties who may have met (or at least noticed) each other, but were unable to trade names and/or other social media handles.  While the base notion behind FindFace does seem like a temptation for the less scrupulous to start rocking their stalking skills, no one guessed it'd prove as devastating to certain parties as it has.

We'll give you a hint:  it's not hurting well-to-do businessmen.
(Image courtesy limpehft.blogspot.com.)

After a young artist brought about attention to the service by photographing strangers on the St. Petersburg subway and matching their faces to their Vkontakte (Russian Facebook) pages, the Russian version of 4chan (known as Dvach - "2chan") decided to de-anonymize a few of their favorite faces.

Of course, because the internet is merciless and surveillance technology is a Pandora's Box that will propel pervasive promiscuity whenever permitted, these faces belonged to porn stars.

Nice job, weirdos, now nobody will want to have their facial images searched
by prospective lovers who spotted them from afar in a crowd
or some other romantic shit like that.
(Image courtesy advox.globalvoices.org.)

The women subjected to the FindFace frenzy then had their Vkontakte pages spammed from "admirers", as well as having their family members and friends messaged and dragged into the raunchy reveal.  Women who offered services via the prostitution website Intimcity were also outed regarding their activities.

Unfortunately, the doxxers who conducted the lack-of-panties raid were not doing so in celebration of the female form, rather, their attack was a highly modern method of slut-shaming.  Possibly because people with that much extra time on their hands aren't spending it wooing women, or even making enough money to afford to pretend a prostitute would care about them.

Neckbeards.  Damn those disgusting neckbeards.
(Image courtesy makeagif.com.)

FaceFind founder Maxim Perlin made sure that Vkontakte removed a private group of users who shared screencaps of their exploits (preserved in case any of their targets' pages were taken down), and has reminded any unscrupulous users that distributing pornography illegally is a felony in Russia.

“We are making every effort to protect all Vkontakte users from potential malicious acts,” Perlin said. ”And we’re prepared, if necessary, to provide any information needed to find the users responsible for this harassment.”

Until the issue is resolved, a lot of Russian porn might start looking like this.
(Image courtesy sex.com.)

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Blowing Up The Burners: New Bill To Make Anonymous Cell Phones Illegal?

Chances are, as a modern human being, you own at least one cell phone that you guard with a vigilance that many bodyguards would envy.  It's as important as your wallet or keys, and maybe more so due to its irreplaceability.  But what about the cell phones that are used specifically for their disposable nature?  Should they be illegal just because sometimes you have business to handle that you don't want interacting with the rest of your real life?

Burner phones:  will they be burned at the legal stake for their perceived sins?
(Image courtesy survivethewild.net.)

We live in a time of ultimate cultural disposability, and our technological toys are no different.  For every closely-held smartphone, there are a hundred cheap cell phones that do a lesser but similar bidding, and like anything, not all of a scrupulous nature.  "Burners" have been seen in books, movies, and television as a means for the nefarious to communicate anonymously, but what about their use by average people as a cheap and efficient means of simply saying hello, sans all the bells and whistles?

Apparently in police-state logic, it may better to ban them and ruin things for everyone than deal with the actual problem at any other source.  According to the Independent UK, these phones may soon be illegal in the US without formal registration.  California congresswoman Jackie Speier has introduced a bill that would require proving your identity before being able to obtain a prepaid phone or SIM card.

Their indestructability also makes them ideal for the criminal lifestyle.
Or, you know, just human usefulness.
(Image courtesy cheapist.com.)

“This bill would close one of the most significant gaps in our ability to track and prevent acts of terror, drug trafficking, and modern-day slavery,” Ms. Speier told Facebook.

Since America's rampant data collection and particularly obtrusive phone-decryption efforts are apparently not enough to combat these societal ills, outright surveillance on everyone who ever wants a phone must be the new way to go.  Never mind that a tablet or laptop can easily make anonymous calls on the internet, Speier thinks banning burner phones will stop the terrorists from burning us up.

And what will this ridiculously Luddite-like bill do to the Burner phone apps?
Sorry, society, private calls are still going to try to stay private.
(Image courtesy learningadvancedenglish.blogspot.com.)

What does it say about our society that we can't stop the drug trade, so we'll try to crack down on communications?  What does it imply when we'll let terrorists get within usable distances of our cell towers, but we think we can only catch them by monitoring the most rudimentary of devices?  Is control slipping, or is this the next logical progression of society-wide surveillance, like ubiquitous cameras or routinely-insecure email?  

Or, most terribly likely, is it both?

Treat yourself to some turn-of-the-century tech for your apocalypse bag,
just in case.
(Image courtesy www.teotwawki-blog.com.)

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X Marks The Spotted: Windows 10 Is Watching You

As citizens of the cyber-community, we've unfortunately become conditioned to seeing ads that are eerily targeted to things we say, emails that appear from long-forgotten websites, and other evidence of deep data gathering made manifest for use of moneymaking.  Now, with the launch of Windows 10 becoming a necessity for some users, Microsoft seems to have pulled out even more stops to speed up their spying...

Seriously, what ISN'T spying on us these days?
(Image courtesy hackread.com.)

According to theinquirer.net,  Windows 10 uses "basic telemetry" data to adjust your web browsing habits for your location.  Fair enough.  However, the company has openly admitted to using this new browser platform to gather more data on users than ever, all under the auspices of excuses that prey on laziness and/or lack of knowledge.

The Windows 10 operating system has already made headlines by downloading itself to machines regardless of user preference, which is straight-up creepy.  It can also wreak havoc on devices with data caps, such as iPads.  The very fact that the system is so pushy makes it suspicious to begin with, to say nothing of the hidden folders that need to be navigated before any changes can be implemented to the system.  Numerous complaints have been made about glitchy and/or dramatically slower computers that have been afflicted by repeated failed download attempts by the system.

According to Forbes, the system itself is, by Microsoft's own admission, also spying on your personal actions.  Your usage of the system is reported back to Microsoft as part of their "core data" collection, which can include browser history data, system performance, and even keystrokes logged on your machine.  It can provide unasked-for software updates with no explanation of function, display ads in the Start menu, control your bandwidth usage, and report on hardware usage to Microsoft.  So basically, it knows everything about you.

Just wait until it starts writing you creepy love notes on those little desktop Post-Its.
(Image courtesy easysecurityonline.com.)

Microsoft Corporate Vice President Joe Belfiore explained that the company will take users' opinions into consideration regarding this technology, stating, “We’re going to continue to listen to what the broad public says about these decisions, and ultimately our goal is to balance the right thing happening for the most people – really, for everyone – with complexity that comes with putting in a whole lot of control.”

Sorry, all we heard was that bit about listening to the broad public and goals of a whole lot of control.  

If you suspect Windows 10 has been downloaded onto your machine sans consent, check your privacy settings and edit them via Start menu > Settings > Privacy.  It's a start, despite all the insidiousness.  Better yet, educate yourself on why this is bad for the safety of society, and don't be afraid to use your voice against it...if you're going to be listened in on, be heard as a cause for good.

Dammit Clippy, I never figured you'd turn snitch.  What has the world come to?!
(Image courtesy networkworld.com.)


Found By Sound: Kidnapper Located Via Spotify Sign-Ons

The information superhighway has a lot of vehicles on it, and you might be followed without even realizing it.  Such was the case with one woman who thought she could escape the law, but didn't count on the law looking in on what she listened to, and where...

If Bonnie and Clyde here are jamming Spotify while fleeing the law,
they're gonna get caught!
(Image courtesy musictimes.com.)

According to the Washington Post, a woman named Brittany Dunn was supposed to appear in court to fight for custody of her daughter, but figured that the best way to handle this was just to go ahead and take the kid.  Dodging the court date and kidnapping her kids, she fled to Mexico with her newer husband.  It seemed like she'd pulled off the heist...until her radio records came up.

A user of the Spotify music streaming service, Mrs. Dunn had signed on to kick out some jams while she was on the lam.  An anonymous user pointed out that due to this, Dunn left an overt trail of IP addresses in her wake, allowing law officers to track her and reclaim her children.

"I fought the law and the law won...because we were listening to that exact song."
(Image courtesy washingtonpost.com.)

She had also been streaming kids' programs for the children, which (after some subpoena'ing of tech companies on behalf of the detectives) proved fruitful for the search as well.  Dunn and her husband are now awaiting trial on felony charges of custody violations and unlawful flight from law enforcement.

"As technology gets better and more companies come out, there are more opportunities to go get search warrants and figure out where people are," said Drew Webber, an investigator on the case. "It’s becoming more and more of an investigative tool for us."

"Not every company stores this information," he continued, "but the ones that do is another chance for us to gather intelligence."

So remember, if you ever need to commit a felony, flee the country, and vanish permanently, just be sure you make a bunch of mixtapes or mp3 playlists first!

They didn't flee from these Police, hence, the real ones showed up.
(Image courtesy allmusic.com.)


Who Would Jesus Watch? New Facial Recognition Software Tracks Church Attendance

Oh, god.  As if it weren't "bad" enough in the eyes of The Most High that your lapsed morals caused you to skip church on Sunday to be a brunch-munching heathen or false-idolater football fan, now you've also been caught...by computer.

The lord doesn't always work in mysterious ways...sometimes it's just computers and cameras.
(Image courtesy hackingchristianity.net.)

According to Engadget, over two dozen churches can now definitively place you on a list of sinners or saints thanks to a new facial-recognition software program.  Dubbed Churchix, the software was invented by Face-Six, an Israeli security company (maybe rabbis need to keep a watch on their flocks, too.)

Churchix boasts (without committing the sin of pride, of course) a 99% accuracy rate in a controlled environment.  It works by constantly scanning the congregation like the all-seeing eyes of a judgmental, paternalistic, omniscient being, except just via closed-circuit TV cameras.  It then matches attendees' faces against a pre-existing database of "passport-like" images, the computerized archive of which looks unsettlingly like a mugshot roster.  It then presumably writes up a shame list to group-text to Jesus, The Holy Ghost, Satan, and Santa.

"Absent since Easter?!  Gotcha, bitch."
(Image courtesy glossynews.com.)

Face-Six's CEO Moshe Greenshpan told Churchmag, "Church events are the church way to interact with its members, and naturally the attendance to those events is very important...Event attendance stats help the church to measure the success of each event, see what event types are more popular than others and also track the attendance of specific members."

Ostensibly, this could be nice for popular parishes to assess their market demographic, targeting certain services or sermons more accurately to the age group they desire, and not just subtly snooping to see if you showed up with your hot single neighbor AGAIN so that they can remind you that fornication outside of wedlock is a sin. It could also aid in the observation of elderly parishioners who, if they started to significantly under-attend, could be speaking to god from a much closer vantage point and should maybe have the county coroner called to their house because it's been over three weeks now that Ethel didn't show.

We're not explaining how to dodge it or anything...
but here's a few points on what the programs look for.
(Image courtesy sott.net.)

Maybe Churchix is going to be used to score you attendance points that you can trade in at confession to knock a few Our Fathers off the weekly rosary tally.  By the way, how many is it that you owe, now?  Better show up this week and find out...or it'll be more than just god glaring at you for your unholy ways.

"Uh, and your benevolent minister didn't even mention this exists?  Yeaahhh...I'm out."
(Image courtesy sott.net.)  


Bugs, Drugs, and Thugs: DEA Phone Tap Protocol From 1992 Onward Paved Way For Current NSA Programs

Many compelling arguments have been offered as evidence to stop the NSA and other agencies from spying on American (and others') phone calls.  Constitutional rights infringement, invasion of privacy, and simply wasting time and manpower are all noteworthy points that the programs should be stopped.  However, nothing justifies the removal of this century's scaled-up security state better than history itself:  powers-that-be have been monitoring calls for decades, and it didn't stop terrorists one bit...

It didn't really stop drug dealers that much, either.
(Image courtesy anyclip.com.)

According to techdirt.com, it has recently come to light that a phone surveillance program operated by the DEA was in effect since at least 1992 (a.k.a. nearly a decade before 9/11.)  The oft-trotted argument that such spying would thwart terrorists is now patently incorrect.  Government claims that no pre-9/11 phone calls from American citizens were retained and assessed for data is not just misinformation, it is an outright lie.

The DEA's program, which culled the calls of "millions" according to Brad Heath of USA Today, forged the architecture for the NSA's later onslaught.  While the DEA's program claimed to only monitor the phone numbers and associated emails for links to trade in various drug-producing nations, the secrecy of the program strongly hints that more thorough examinations of the material were taking place.  At times, they were even more invasive than the current NSA program.

Numerous attempts to repel them failed.
(Image courtesy arizonaweeklyweeeder.com.)

According to Heath's report, "The DEA used its data collection extensively and in ways that the NSA is now prohibited from doing. Agents gathered the records without court approval, searched them more often in a day than the spy agency does in a year and automatically linked the numbers the agency gathered to large electronic collections of investigative reports, domestic call records accumulated by its agents and intelligence data from overseas. The result was "a treasure trove of very important information on trafficking," former DEA administrator Thomas Constantine said in an interview."

Heath's report also mentions that the DEA's phone program, which commenced in 1992 at the behest of then-president George H.W. Bush, was smoothly approved but not closely tended to.  According to Heath, "It was approved by top Justice Department officials in four presidential administrations and detailed in occasional briefings to members of Congress but otherwise had little independent oversight, according to officials involved with running it."

Maybe a few stuck to the law...maybe not.
(Image courtesy www.hbo.com.)

When phone companies argued that the data being mined was too extensive, there were rebuttals for that as well.  In 1998, the DEA told Sprint that, "the initiative has been determined to be legally appropriate" and that their appropriation of call data was, "appropriate and required by law." The data  was claimed officially "to focus scarce investigative resources by means of sophisticated pattern and link analysis."

Since DEA subpoenas do not require a judge's approval, numerous instances of pulling in call data were used to "tip" agents onto the trail of suspected dealers. "We knew we were stretching the definition," a former official involved said.

However, at least the DEA used their information to target people, not just hold it like the Phone of Damocles over citizens' heads.  As a vote to maintain Section 215 of the Patriot Act draws near, we would do well to use these findings to make citizens understand a critical point: even when we DID use targeted information on suspected criminals, it didn't stop terrorism.  So how is blanket mass-surveillance expected to do any better?

This isn't helping or protecting anyone.
(Image courtesy activistpost.com.)

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Positively Fourth Amendment: The Department Of Justice Wants In On Your Info, Anywhere

Thanks to a new initiative to amend the Constitutionally-sound rules regarding search and seizure, the United States Department of Justice seems to want to practice anything but.  Currently the D.O.J. is seeking  the authority to hack computers anywhere in the world...

This isn't cool and never will be, regardless of what the Department of "Justice" thinks.
(Image courtesy watchdog.org.)

In what appears to be a gross infringement attempt on privacy rights, the U.S. D.O.J. wants to watch your computer wherever it wants, worldwide.  According to techdirt.com, if the D.O.J. gets their way, magistrate judges could grant warrants to enable the capture of remote data, at any time for the past or future.  The computer searches, they claim, are technically legal.  All they want to do now is be able to rifle through your info regardless of where you hang your white, black, or grey hat.

The specific rule that the D.O.J. seeks to amend is Federal Criminal Procedure Rule 41, which would allow magistrate judges to issue warrants for data without knowing which district it is or was situated in.  This skirts dangerously close to violating the Constitution's 4th amendment concerning search and seizure practices, which offers safety against random and unspecific violations of your person, papers, and data.

You're being profiled in enough ways already.  Now the D.O.J. is just being lazy.
(Image courtesy arstechnica.com.)

The specific verbiage of the proposed amendment to Rule 41 can be found on page 338 of this document.

Google has championed against this idea, stating, "Although the proposed amendment disclaims association with any constitutional questions, it invariably expands the scope of law enforcement searches, weakens the Fourth Amendment's particularity and notice requirements, opens the door to potentially unreasonable searches and seizures, and expands the practice of covert entry warrants."

Google went on to list a number of judicial precedents that had been allowed to obtain the data via various methods the D.O.J. might implement, with one crucial fact included:  these were all granted thanks to acts of Congress.  Any further attempts to infringe on freedom should attempt the same route.  Amie Stepanovich, senior policy counsel with the Access digital freedom group, noted how this was only fair, stating, "...when you have us resorting to Congress to get increased privacy protections, we would also like to see the government turn to Congress to get increased surveillance authority."

This proposed amendment runs the inherent risk of not only massive abuses of extraterritorial power, but also to make such powers view anonymous or proxy-encrypted computers as suspicious and thus worthy of extra attention (or worse, infiltration.)  Honestly, it's probably already happening.  Retroactively, it's a good idea to make sure it's legally curtailed before it gets any worse.

You are not suspicious for staying anonymous.  They are suspicious for trying to out you.
(Image credit spectrum.ieee.org.)


Keeping Quiet? Better Buy It. AT&T To Charge For Online Surveillance Opt-Out

So it's come to this.  We're now "afforded" the option to bribe companies out of spying on us...

As internet speeds grow faster, so does the transfer of your personal information.  It seems that not only are Americans willing to give up privacy for a little security, we're also willing to give it up just for quicker downloads of stupid cat videos.

As reported by techsmash.com, AT&T is now charging $70 for high-speed Gigabit internet, and another $29 if you don't want them to track you during your adventures on said internet.  While other companies offer this opt-out service for free, AT&T apparently decided to parlay the value of privacy into a moneymaking scheme.

Great, now they're tracking me for googling "internet gulag."
(Image courtesy quickmeme.com.)

AT&T's website states that they monitor, "The web pages you visit, the time you spend on each, the links or ads you see and follow, and the search terms you enter."  Well, that's not going to paint a pretty picture.  But at least they are sure to follow that statement with a patronizing, "We will not collect information from secure (https) or otherwise encrypted sites, such as when you enter your credit card to buy something online or do online banking on a secure site."  Gee thanks for, you know, not committing major financial fraud?

Since we as internet users have little choice in the matter, how can it be considered ethical to try to financially deter us from surfing safely and secretly?  Privacy shouldn't come with penalties, particularly not payoffs.  If this is how we expect to be treated at the world's nexus of knowledge, how far are we going to let it go in real life?

The next generation of secret police don't even need the "secret" prefix anymore.
Oppression is now overt, and pay-for-privacy is a perturbing part of that.
(Image courtesy consumerwatchdog.org.)


The Question Of Invisibility: Google's Yearly Content Removal Request Report

The thing about dealing with information supergiants is that they not only have power over who sees your secrets and how, but they'll also discuss them when comprehensively covering what dirtier deeds than your own were begged to be scrubbed from the internet.

Such is the nature of Google's semiannual transparency report, another installation of which was released today.  For the first time, this report included some 30 examples of material that had been expressly asked (mostly by government operatives) to vanish from the common knowledge, as though what was reported on was really actually bad enough to transcend the public's millisecond-length attention span.

There's a lot of skullduggery out there...removing the evidence is kind of a big job.
(Image courtesy betanews.com.)

According to newsweek.com, some of it really WAS bad enough that it could ruin lives simply by remaining in the public eye.  Prison inmate abuse, serious sexual accusations, and purported "defamation" of numerous police officers were all included in the materials requested for removal.  None of these requests were granted.

By Google's anaylsis, nearly 8,000 requests were made for information removal during 2013.  These covered the e-extraordinary rendition of some 14,367 pieces of information.  Requests were up 60% from 2012 to have one's secrets permanently kept that way (at least from the eyes of the internet.)  The full transparency report including cases and actions taken is available for analysis.

The specific offending material varied, with governments making 1,066 requests for content be removed from blogs, 841 requests for removal from Google searches, and 765 requests to never again grace the screens of YouTube. These requests comprised the time period between July and December 2013 alone.

Unsurprisingly, people said and did a bunch of dumb stuff caught on Twitter too.
(Image courtesy transparency.twitter.com.)

The most cited reason for the prospective purge was explained as "defamation" (36%), with nudity/obscenity (16%) and security (11%) also making excuses. Google was quick to admit that their report is not a full account of possible online censorship, but is a good metric in that "it does provide a lens on the things that governments and courts ask us to remove, underscoring the importance of transparency around the processes governing such requests.”

You can run, and you can rant, and sling all the press and televised mess you want, but you can't hide from the internet. Little Brother has just as many cameras and ears as Big Brother. The "embarrassing" (and maybe appropriately defamatory) results are more than elements of evidence: they are mirrors to our very society. A stark and honest appraisal of that image requires the full picture of our actions, no matter how ugly.

So that's how that works!  Thanks, transparency!
(Image courtesy watchdog.org.)

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If You Only Have Something Nice To Say, Say It On The Outpour App

Privacy on the internet is an important and valuable commodity, even for those who claim they have "nothing to hide."  Though arguments on privacy frequently focus on the idea of not having to worry if you're not doing anything wrong, what if you're interested in remaining private because you're doing something wildly (and possibly uncharacteristically) nice for someone?

It's not always as hard as you think it might be.  Even if it is, your discovery and notation of it increases its value.
(Image courtesy twitter.com.)

Enter a new app, Outpour.  As reported by wired.com, Outpour abets those who would like to deluge someone in positive comments but can't quite say them to their face or their facebook.  When freedom of expression just needs a new method of expression, Outpour steps in so you can brighten someone's day with a nice note, sans your name.  The idea is to spur people to say something sweet that they might otherwise have left bottled up, like so much maple syrup that could never saturate your mental pancakes.

(Image courtesy redtri.com.)

Yes, it could be used for evil, but the design is based against that.  One would have to specifically seek out their victim's profile and consciously ignore all other nice messages before violating the "social norm" of the site with their message.  For those who would buck that norm, their rantings can be deleted by the user, and the vitriol-spewer's account may be blocked.  Numerous blockings could result in a site-wide ban.  A unique phone number is required for sign-up, to prevent multiple accounts.

Outpour is available for iOS, with web and Android versions arriving next year.  So if you're not near enough to someone to send a drink down the bar, or if you're not close enough to know where to send them a card, Outpour could help bring some small, secret joy with just a few keystrokes.  How sweet.

Anonymous love is still love.
(Image courtesy shinyshiny.tv.)


Fall's Hot New Look: Antisurveillance "Dazzle" Camouflage

Camouflage takes many forms, some in plain sight, some you've maybe never even spotted (by design.)  In today's world of ever-encroaching surveillance, one can't be too careful around cameras, both overt and hidden.  If you're trying to keep your face out of the electronic archives, one way to dodge the documentation is to use some good old-fashioned dazzle camouflage. 

In WWI, battleships were painted like hipsters (shipsters?) to confuse enemies.

Based on the premise of actual military warpaint used on planes and boats, CV Dazzle is a new means to break lines of vision while simultaneously breaking your monotonous old look.  According to the CV Dazzle website, "Since facial-recognition algorithms rely on the identification and spatial relationship of key facial features, like symmetry and tonal contours, one can block detection by creating an “anti-face."  Avant-garde, Surrealist, and cubist designs all contribute to the various elements of CV Dazzle.  

Arts AND sciences!
(Image courtesy cvdazzle.com.)

Some ideas for your new radar-revolting look could include:

-Long, facially-obscuring bangs in a variety of lengths and colors

-Facepaint including large "pixel"-style blocks 

-makeup that contrasts with your skin tone and doesn't enhance specific features

-obscuring the nose bridge (a key indicator in facial recognition software)

-obscuring the size and shape of the head

-covering or altering the perceived appearance of the eyes (size, shape, color)

-developing an overall asymmetrical facial presentation

The CV website offers styling templates and a host of look ideas to ponder, if you need to take your anti-surveillance look to the next level.  Would a mask also work?  Sure, but you might look cooler with blue bangs.

Of course, if you're not inclined to wear facepaint or weird bangs, you can always just anonymize your face in photos with the Face Dazzler app.  It'll take you right out the running for all the "tags" you don't need to be found in.  Privacy never looked so pretty!

Dazzle camouflage still works in modern times, as shown by this Dazzle-inspired yacht painted by Jeff Koons.  Yes, that is a real boat.

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Shrug Off "Atlas", Facebook's New Ad-Stalking Network

You are a target.  Your likes, dislikes, and desires, as manifested via the internet, make you prime material for directed advertising, and social media giant Facebook knows it.  That's why they're stepping in to make their ads follow you around the internet, like a lost dog of consumerism, or perhaps an over-egregious door-to-door salesman inside your screen.

According to mashable.com, the targeted ads will start following you immediately.  You selections and mentions on facebook help them to direct material that they think you will be prone to clicking on, and thus your creepily-pertinent ad distractions will appear if you visit other facebook-affiliated sites (such as Amazon or various news outlets.)

Facebook's new ad network, Atlas, is responsible for this collection and dispersal.  A former Microsoft company which Facebook purchased for $100 million last year, Atlas tracks your verbiage and serves up what it feels is appropriate topical consumer choices.  Atlas CEO Erik Johnson stated this is superior to the logging of your info by your computer's "cookies", stating in a blog post that, "Cookies don’t work on mobile, are becoming less accurate in demographic targeting and can’t easily or accurately measure the customer purchase funnel across browsers and devices or into the offline world."

Now that they've stepped up their game, so can you.  Services like Adblock, Ghostery, NoScript and Disconnect.me can help to combat the ever-encroaching e-eyeballs and protect your privacy.  So if you've ever had the sneaking suspicion that your paper trail needs to be burned, now you know how to fire it up.

You don't want to be on the shoulders of the Atlas that hefts the world wide web.


Dead Drop: Darknet Service Will Be Your Whistleblower If You Mysteriously Disappear

It's hard out there for a whistleblower.  With Bradley "Chelsea" Manning in extreme custody, Edward Snowden hiding out in Russia, and numerous other knowledge-droppers dead under sketchy circumstances, one would be deterred before breathing a word of any new top-secret info - no matter how damning.  However, if you do happen to have your hands on some hot intel, and fear for your safety because of it, a new service will release your documents if you end up disappearing or dead.

The service, called Dead Man Zero, is accessible only through the deep web.  According to vice.com, it costs around $120 (paid in bitcoin.)  One uploads their files to a secure cloud, then the site requires password updates (set at a variable time preference by the user), which if not established will trigger a release of the documents to the user's desired outlets (lawyers, journalists, etc.)

“So what if something happens to you?” Dead Man Zero's site ponders. "Especially if you're trying to do something good like blow the whistle on something evil or wrong in society or government. There should be consequences if you are hurt, jailed, or even killed for trying to render a genuine and risky service to our free society...Now you have some protection. If 'something happens' to you, then your disclosures can be made public regardless.”

It adds, "If events overtake you, you can still overtake your adversaries."

Of course, for anyone paranoid enough to use this service, a secondary dose of worry ensues.  Is the cloud secure enough?  Will the site sustain long enough to make certain my documents really do survive me?  Will they follow through with their promise despite what the intel may contain?  Yes, it is a gamble.  But so is possessing information worthy of this kind of necessity.  For true protection of what is too dangerous for public knowledge, it's either a service like this, or a buried chest full of documents and some keys distributed to your close associates...which do you feel is truly the safest?

You could always test their security by uploading a treasure map to the cloud and laying booby traps for anyone who comes after it.  Just an option.


Steal Your Face: The FBI Is Storing Your Dimensions, Fearing Criminal Intentions

If you value your privacy, you may want to stock up on extra Halloween masks this season. The FBI has recently announced its state-of-the-art new facial recognition system, and it is creepier than any macabre mask a citizen can don.

According to gizmodo.com, six years of development and a billion dollars of taxpayer money have led to this biometric facial recognition software system. If you're getting a visa, going to prison, or otherwise being photographed by any grabby arm of the government, your identifying facial dimensions are sure going in there. It's called the Next Generation Identification program, and you are getting forced into this future.

But why stop at the shape of your skull and surrounding tissues? They did spend a BILLION of your dollars, after all! Scars, tattoos, fingerprints and other major identifying characteristics will also be included in your (totally safe and secure, we're sure) recognition profile. This shared database, known as the Interstate Photo System, is only going to get more insidious as ubiquitous surveillance camera resolutions improve.

The FBI, of course, loves their new toy. They were proud to report, "Since phase one was deployed in February 2011, the NGI system has introduced enhanced automated fingerprint and latent search capabilities, mobile fingerprint identification, and electronic image storage, all while adding enhanced processing speed and automation for electronic exchange of fingerprints to more than 18,000 law enforcement agencies and other authorized criminal justice partners 24 hours a day, 365 days a year."

It wouldn't be surprising if ninja-style outfits of obscurity became fashionable in the next few years...

So by FBI logic, the best masks are now the ones with no facial characteristics whatsoever.


OnionWare Anonymity Software Makes Spies Cry: New Secure Filesharing Service Expertly Thwarts Middlemen

With privacy issues becoming more and more critical in modern life, it is important to retain a feeling of security when dealing with one's major online documents. More than simple spied-on social media or intercepted emails, having a means to store and transfer large files online in a private manner is the focus of a new anonymity software.

Inspired by NSA patriot Edward Snowden, the new OnionWare technology uses the super-secure Tor network to thwart prying eyes, then establishes a temporary website on the user's computer. This eliminates the "middleman" of other filesharing services like Dropbox, which could be infiltrated by the government at any point. Using Onionware and Tor, a secure password and URL are exchanged peer-to-peer, and once the desired files are downloaded by the recipient, the temporary site is deleted permanently.

Parker Higgins, an activist with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, lauded the new technology, telling www.digitaljournal.com that, "Peer-to-peer offers no convenient mechanism for centralized surveillance or censorship. By design, there's usually no middleman that can easily record metadata about transfers—who uploaded and downloaded what, when, and from where—or block those transfers...recording all of it would require a dragnet effort, not a simple request for a log file from a centralized service provider."

The software was developed by tech analyst and cryptography/cybersecurity crusader Micah Lee while trying to expedite the secure transfer of files between Edward Snowden and journalists David Miranda and Glenn Greenwald, whose own files came under government scrutiny once the Snowden leaks were exposed.
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No Cash For Spy Stash: The NSA Loses Government Funds For Domestic Peeping; Foreign Spyware

Will a lack of "backdoor funding" deter the NSA in any way from spying on citizens at home and abroad? Soon the world will have a chance to find out.

As reported by www.wired.co.uk, on June 19th the House of Representatives passed an amendment to the Department of Defense Appropriations Act 2015 that will prevent the NSA from using government funds to stock information obtained while stalking both Americans and foreign citizens not expressly under warrant.

An open letter from several civil liberties groups to the House Of Representatives regarding the vote stated, "...These measures would make appreciable changes that would advance government surveillance reform and help rebuild lost trust among internet users and businesses, while also preserving national security and intelligence authorities."

This is an important breakthrough, with many foreign citizens recently extra-suspicious of the NSA thanks to discoveries of wireless routers sold in Europe being tainted by American spyware (subsequent hacks and defenses have already been issued to quell this problem.) But will removing Uncle Sam's wallet from Big Brother's pocket really slow down the spying?

Now they'll have to raise funds just as shady as they are.

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Secret Service Using Totally Cool Sarcasm Detector While Watching Social Media

The United States Secret Service has escalated their social-media surveillance methods as of late, and it makes things soooo much better for the common person. If you don't have a specially-crafted program to filter that sentence, it contained sarcasm, which has become a problem for Big Brother by creating false positives for threats during their nitpicking of our online brain droppings.

The new technology is considered superior than tasking agents with creating fake profiles to gather and assess the public's social media commentary.  According to www.nextgov.com, the technology also includes the abilities for “sentiment analysis,” "influencer identification," "access to historical Twitter data," “ability to detect sarcasm," and "heat maps" or graphics showing user trends by color intensity, agency officials said.

The program will operate in real time and totally respects your opinion.

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Use of Online Privacy and Anonymity Tools on the Rise

From the Guardian:
Globally, 56% of those surveyed by GlobalWebIndex reported that they felt the internet is eroding their personal privacy, with an estimated 415 million people or 28% of the online population using tools to disguise their identity or location.

On these figures, Tor could be regularly used by as many as 45.13 million people. Its biggest userbase appears to be in Indonesia, where 21% of respondents said they used the tool, followed by 18% in Vietnam and 15% in India. 
Indonesia also has the world's highest penetration of general anonymity tools among its internet users, with 42% using proxy servers or virtual private networks known as VPNs, which disguise the location of the user's internet connection - their IP address - and therefore bypass regional blocks on certain content.
The US, UK, Germany and Ireland meanwhile all report 17% penetration, with Japan the lowest at 5%. The data includes those aged 16-64 for the last quarter of 2013.

NSA Defends Its Attacks Against Anonymous Networks

The Director of National Intelligence defends the NSA's attacks against anonymous networks.  From Allthingsd:
The National Security Agency may have attempted to penetrate and compromise a widely used network designed to protect the anonymity of its users, but it was only because terrorists and criminals use it, too.

That’s the explanation from Director of National Intelligence James Clapper about the recently disclosed attacks by the NSA and its companion agency in the U.K. against The Onion Router, or Tor, a network that uses a constantly changing list of specially configured servers to relay and anonymize the Internet traffic of its users.

In a statement posted to the DNI’s blog, Clapper acknowledged NSA’s “interest in tools used to facilitate anonymous online communication.” However, media coverage of the work fails to point out that “the Intelligence Community’s interest in online anonymity services and other online communication and networking tools is based on the undeniable fact that these are the tools our adversaries use to communicate and coordinate attacks against the United States and our allies.”
Perhaps that may sound reasonable, until you realize that by "our adversaries" the NSA basically means EVERYONE, including all US citizens.  Recall this piece from the Guardian:
Since 2011, the total spending on Sigint enabling has topped $800m. The program "actively engages US and foreign IT industries to covertly influence and/or overtly leverage their commercial products' designs", the document states. None of the companies involved in such partnerships are named; these details are guarded by still higher levels of classification.
Among other things, the program is designed to "insert vulnerabilities into commercial encryption systems". These would be known to the NSA, but to no one else, including ordinary customers, who are tellingly referred to in the document as "adversaries".
The NSA is the man in the middle . . .


In Defense of Anonymity

If the anti-privacy lobby had its way, the Federalist Papers would have never been written.  From Yahoo:
In the face of increasing government-led crackdowns on social media, Google Inc should not force Internet users to reveal their real names for some services, including its Google+ social network, said Vint Cerf, a senior Google executive known as a "father of the Internet."

In an interview with Reuters, Cerf acknowledged that the search giant's sweeping push in the past 18 months to institute real-name authentication for Google+ and other services has sparked intense debate within its Mountain View, California, headquarters. But he argued that current name policy, which allows for some users to display pseudonyms, offers adequate "choice" in how users choose to represent themselves. . . .

"Anonymity and pseudonymity are perfectly reasonable under some situations," Cerf said. "But there are cases where in the transactions both parties really need to know who are we talking to. So what I'm looking for is not that we shut down anonymity, but rather that we offer an option when needed that can strongly authenticate who the parties are."

In the past few months Cerf has warned that governments — including democratic ones — are increasingly censoring and filtering the Web, while some regimes are seeking to ban online anonymity in order to control political speech.
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