Posts Tagged ‘surveillance’

Coronavirus is a dream come true for Bill Gates, who lives to vaccinate

April 17, 2020

In case you haven’t noticed, Microsoft co-founder and billionaire “philanthropist” Bill Gates is champing at the bit to implement his long-awaited mandatory vaccination agenda. And what better catalyst for making it happen than the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis?

Just months after his infamous Event 201, which was all about a hypothetical pandemic scenario, out pops the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) right on schedule to bring to life Gates’ fantasy dream of jabbing every person on the planet with one of his “philanthropic” vaccines.

And wouldn’t you know it, but Gates also recently stepped down from the board of Microsoft – just before the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) struck, it’s important to note – in order to focus more on his “philanthropic” endeavors, which we know from history actually center around his eugenics agenda.

With the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) being a ripe target for exploitation, Gates has already thrown billions of dollars into setting up multiple avenues for developing not just one, but seven, potential vaccines for it. He’s also calling for “digital certificates” to prove that a person has been vaccinated, allowing them reentry back into the world economy.

This is in addition to the $450 million that Gates contributed to the effort to “eradicate polio,” as well as numerous other endeavors he’s been a part of over the years that all have one thing in common: mandatory vaccination.

The guy lives to vaccinate, and it’s really the only thing he ever seems to talk about. Sure, he’ll occasionally mention pharmaceuticals as well – never nutrition, by the way – but vaccines are Gates’ thing, for which he almost has a bizarre type of fetish … Continue reading

Who Would Want To Destroy The World? More People Than You Might Think

October 27, 2019

As well as megalomaniac tyrants woth access to weapons of mass destruction, mad scientists busy genetically modifying viruses and bacteria in order to weaponise the air we breathe and the water we drink, the corporate greed that drives companies to fill our food and environment with toxic shite in their quest for bigger profits, we have social justice warriors calling for the genocide of ethnic Europeans (having completely failed to notice that they, themselves, are mostly of European extraction, and eco – warriors claiming that the only way ro “save the planet” is through the extinction of humanity. Obviously these somewhat less than bright sparks have never heard that old riddle that goes, 2if a tree falls in the forest and there is nobody around to hear it does it make a sound. Here’s one p-o-v on that, which suggests that vibrations in the air as would be caused by a tree hitting the ground cannot be called a sound unless they collide with the eardrum of a creature that knows what a sound is.

So who wants to destry humanity and do they have a supportable argument?

Who Wants To Destroy The World

More people than you might expect — and new technologies might give them the power to do it

Authored by Phil Torres, Originally published at Medium.com

Photo: NurPhoto/Getty

FFor most of human history, the question of who would want to destroy the world didn’t much matter. The reason, of course, was that that no individual or group of humans could demolish civilization or cause our extinction. Our ancestors just didn’t have the tools: no amount of spears, arrows, swords, or catapults would have enabled them — even the most bloodthirsty and misanthropic — to have inflicted harm in every corner of the world.

This changed with the invention of the atomic bomb. While scholars often identify 1945 as the year that human self-annihilation became possible, a more accurate date is 1948 or 1949, since this is when the United States stockpiled enough nuclear weapons (about 100) to have initiated a hemisphere-spanning “nuclear winter.” (See this work in progress for why I’m focusing on 100 nuclear weapons as a threshold.) A nuclear winter occurs when soot from burning cities significantly reduces the amount of sunlight reaching Earth’s surface for a period of months or years, thereby causing temperatures to plummet and famines to ensue. Quite unsettlingly, it wasn’t until the 1980s — decades after we had enough nukes to blot out the sun — that the nuclear winter phenomenon was first identified, although lingering questions remain even today.

Thanks to new technologies, nonstate actors such as terrorist groups and lone wolves are getting in on the action, too, and might be more willing than national governments to push the proverbial doomsday button.

The U.S. monopoly on world-ending power didn’t last long: by 1953, the Soviet Union had likewise expanded to 100 weapons. Now there were two nations on Earth that could obliterate civilization. But again, this didn’t last very long. The United Kingdom joined the club of potential world-enders around 1962, China around 1971, and France around 1973, with Israel, Pakistan, and India becoming members of this club in the 2010s. Hence, in less than a century, the world went from containing zero actors capable of unilaterally destroying the world to eight.

This is a scary situation. Unfortunately, it’s getting worse — much worse. The reason is that states are no longer the only players in the game. Thanks to new technologies, nonstate actors such as terrorist groups and lone wolves are getting in on the action, too, and they might be a lot more willing than national governments to push the proverbial doomsday button.

My own research suggests that the percentage of people who would push a doomsday button, if it were placed within finger’s reach, is fairly small, but the absolute number is unacceptably high. Even a quick Google search seems to affirm this. Consider the following answers, taken from different online sources, to the question of whether one would destroy the world if one could (quoting typos and all):

“Yes. It is obvious that we gain nothing from living and there is a huge amount of human suffering that I find quite unjustifiable. The complete annihilation of the human race would be the greatest act of compassion ever.” Reddit.com

“Yes, we suck as a human race.” Reddit.com

“Yes. Because you all are assholes. And this is not a joke I would love to push something that ends humanity. I always thought about it and now there is the question about that topic and I am happy to say I want you all dead everyone single one of you fuckers. Please give me the chance to wipe out humanity.” Reddit.com

“My view is that Mankind is a plague… I vote to destroy mankind and let nature start over.” Debate.org

“The human animal is the only evil animal in the animal kingdom. We destroy everything… I email the president weekly and beg him to push the button and stop the madness already.” Debate.org

“In the short time we’ve been on this planet, humans have already destroyed so much. We destroy ecosystems, and kill off entire species of animals… The world would be better off without humans as a whole.” Debate.org

Of course, saying something definitely isn’t the same as doing it. Even so, can we be fully certain that not a single person in the world would attempt to follow through on his or her annihilatory fantasies? One way to approach this question is to look for historical examples of groups or people who both expressed a desire to kill everyone and committed some terrible act or acts of violence. The combination of these two phenomena implies that such people would be willing to act on their omnicidal (meaning killing everyone) impulses and willingly, perhaps even eagerly, push a doomsday button. So are there such examples?

Unfortunately, yes. Lots of them. And they seem to fall into a handful of basic categories.

Eric Harris mused, “I think I would want us to go extinct,” to which he added, “I have a goal to destroy as much as possible… I want to burn the world” and “I just wish I could actually DO this instead of just DREAM about it all.”

Consider the disturbing case of Eric Harris, the psychopathic mastermind behind the 1999 Columbine High School massacre. His journal is full of all sorts of genuinely horrifying, ghoulish fantasies. On several occasions, he explicitly mentions his burning desire to extinguish humanity. At one point. he writes: “If you recall your history the Nazis came up with a ‘final solution’ to the Jewish problem. Kill them all. Well, in case you haven’t figured it out yet, I say ‘KILL MANKIND’ no one should survive.”

Elsewhere, Harris mused, “I think I would want us to go extinct,” to which he added, “I have a goal to destroy as much as possible… I want to burn the world” and “I just wish I could actually DO this instead of just DREAM about it all.”

When Harris and Dylan Klebold, his partner in crime, perpetrated their massacre in Columbine, they were equipped with garden-variety weapons. Dangerous to be sure, but hardly capable of “burning the world.” Can there be any doubt, though, that if Harris — who was relatively intelligent and liked math and science — had had access to some of the advanced technologies of tomorrow, he would have, when committing suicide, tried to go out with a much bigger bang?

The Columbine massacre had a huge influence on later rampage shooters, some of whom also dreamt of omnicide. For example, in 2007, an 18-year-old Finnish student named Pekka-Eric Auvinen shot several people at his school, which he also tried to burn down. Like Harris, he wrote about “a final solution” as “the death of the entire human race,” and described his massacre as “an operation against humanity with the purpose of killing as many people as possible.” Yet another rampage shooter from Finland, Matti Saari, wrote in his suicide note, “I hate the human race, I hate mankind, I hate the whole world, and I want to kill as many people as possible.”

Then, of course, there was Elliot Rodger, the incel psychopath who killed seven people and injured 14 in the 2014 Isla Vista killings. In a video shot one day before the rampage, he said in no uncertain terms: “I hate all of you. Humanity is a disgusting, wretched, depraved species. If I had it in my power, I would stop at nothing to reduce every single one of you to mountains of skulls and rivers of blood. And rightfully so. You deserve to be annihilated. And I’ll give that to you.”

School shooters and other lone wolves have idiosyncratic motives, such as a misanthropic hatred of humanity, or a desire to retaliate against women for perceived romantic and sexual slights. Together, though, they comprise a relatively cohesive category of omnicidal actors, and a relatively unpredictable one at that.

Another type of omnicidal actor comes in the form of apocalyptic terrorists who believe that to save the world, it must first be destroyed. ISIS, arguably the largest and richest terrorist group in history, is a paradigm case. While some members of ISIS probably didn’t hold apocalyptic beliefs, the leadership most certainly did — and they made strategic decisions based on these beliefs. The man who essentially founded ISIS, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, believed that Islam’s version of Armageddon was about to unfold around the small Syrian town of Dabiq. Hence, the name of the group’s propaganda magazine, Dabiq. After the U.S. military killed al-Zarqawi in 2006, leadership of ISIS transferred to Abu Ayyub al-Masri, a fevered apocalypticist who insisted that the Islamic end-of-days messianic figure, the “Mahdi,” was about to appear in Iraq. Like al-Zarqawi, he based his strategy on his apocalyptic belief — and it backfired. He soon met his end at the hands of Western forces.

Both of these individuals really believed that the end was nigh, and that it was their duty to use violence — catastrophic violence, to be more specific — to bring about the apocalypse. ISIS members talked about acquiring nuclear weapons, releasing deadly pathogens, and building dirty bombs. I personally haven’t spoken to a single terrorism scholar who doesn’t think that ISIS would have gleefully pushed a “destroy-the-world” button, especially if Western forces were marching toward Dabiq.

But ISIS is far from the only apocalyptic group. Famously, the doomsday cult Aum Shinrikyo attempted to trigger Armageddon by releasing sarin in the Tokyo subway in 1995. Here in the U.S., more than a dozen hate groups subscribe to Christian Identity, an apocalyptic worldview that endorses the use of catastrophic violence as a means of triggering a “race war” that will initiate the end of the world. And one of the bloodiest conflicts in human history, the Taiping Rebellion, involved an apocalyptic movement called the “Taiping Heavenly Kingdom.” This was led by a man named Hong Xiuquan, who believed that he was the brother of Jesus Christ, “commissioned by the Lord of Heaven to slay the devil-demons (Manchus) whose rule had brought ruin to China.”

A final type of omnicidal actor lingers within the outermost fringe of radical environmentalist, anarcho-primitivist, and Neo-Luddite ideologies. Ted Kaczynski, better known as the Unabomber, provides an example par excellence. Beginning in 1978, Kaczynski perpetrated numerous domestic terrorist attacks, killing three people and injuring 23 others. A former UC Berkeley mathematics professor and Harvard alumnus, Kaczynski didn’t wish for humanity to go extinct. Rather, he wanted to trigger a global revolution against industrial society, with the ultimate goal of causing its collapse. Kaczynski ultimately didn’t care whether his revolution would cause people to die, since in his utilitarian calculus the ends would justify the means. As Kaczynski wrote in 1995: “This revolution may or may not make use of violence; it may be sudden or it may be a relatively gradual process spanning a few decades. Its object will be to overthrow not governments but the economic and technological basis of the present society.”

In contrast, other actors in this category have explicitly embraced pro-extinction convictions. For example, the Gaia Liberation Front (GLF), an ecoterrorist group, holds as their mission “the total liberation of the Earth, which can be accomplished only through the extinction of the Humans as a species.” In advocating this, they argue that “if any Humans survive, they may start the whole thing over again. Our policy is to take no chances.”

How might they accomplish their omnicidal aims? GLF contends that bioengineering is “the specific technology for doing the job right of annihilating humanity — and it’s something that could be done by just one person with the necessary expertise and access to the necessary equipment.” They continue: “…genetically engineered viruses… have the advantage of attacking only the target species. To complicate the search for a cure or a vaccine, and as insurance against the possibility that some Humans might be immune to a particular virus, several different viruses could be released (with provision being made for the release of a second round after the generals and the politicians had come out of their shelters).”

Technologies such as gene drives, digital-to-biological converters, and CRISPR-Cas9 are making it increasingly feasible to synthesize designer pathogens that could be far more devastating than anything found in nature.

This parallels an anonymous article in the Earth First! Journal, published in 1989, meaning that this idea has been around for a while: “Contributions are urgently solicited for scientific research on a species specific virus that will eliminate Homo shiticus from the planet. Only an absolutely species specific virus should be set loose. Otherwise it will be just another technological fix. Remember, Equal Rights for All Other Species.”

While the most radical fringe of the environmentalist movement has avoided the limelight in recent years, some experts, such as the terrorism scholar Frances Flannery, expect a resurgence as climate and biodiversity crises worsen. This poses an obvious danger in a world replete with bullets and bombs; but it poses an existential threat in a world of cheap and easy gene editing. Technologies such as gene drives, digital-to-biological converters, and CRISPR-Cas9 are making it increasingly feasible to synthesize designer pathogens that could be far more devastating than anything found in nature.

Are there any solutions to the problems posed by virus-toting omnicidal maniacs? One hard-to-avoid — and completely terrifying — answer is mass surveillance. This could take the form of what the philosopher Jeremy Bentham called a “panopticon,” whereby the state (perhaps run by computer programs designed specifically to govern — a form of government called “algocracy”) monitors every action of its citizens. The obvious danger is that this could collapse into tyrannical totalitarianism, which itself constitutes an existential risk.

Another possibility involves what the science fiction writer, David Brin, dubs the “transparent society.” This would make surveillance egalitarian, so to speak: everyone would be able to see what everyone else is doing all the time, thereby enabling those watched to watch the watchers. Brin doesn’t argue that this is an ideal situation, only that it’s a better situation than one in which the state has all the power. Perhaps a total loss of privacy is the cost of existential security.

Alternatively, I have previously claimed that, in order to reduce the risks posed by malicious agents like those mentioned above, society should prioritize mitigating climate change and ecological destruction. Both phenomena are threat multipliers and threat intensifiers, which means that they’ll introduce new problems while making old problems even worse. Better environmental policies would lower the threat posed by ecoterrorists, whose fundamental complaint — “Humans are stupidly destroying the biosphere” — is scientifically accurate. Such policies would also decrease the number and severity of natural disasters, which could fertilize apocalyptic fervor among religious extremists. As the terrorism scholar Mark Juergensmeyer has remarked, “radical times will breed radical religion,” a hypothesis apparently supported by the rise of ISIS during the Syrian civil war.

Moving forward, people who care about human survival need to think hard not just about the various technologies that will become available, but about the types of actors who might try to use these technologies for catastrophic ill. The future of the human race could quite literally depend on it.

OneZero

 

Nothing Can Stop Google. DuckDuckGo Is Trying Anyway.

January 16, 2019

Extract from: Nothing Can Stop Google, Duck Duck Go Is Trying Anyway on Medium.com

The excerpt is longer than ‘fair use’ normally permits, but if it helps people to understand there are alternatives out there to the increasingly evil search service provided by Google, the author will not mind too much.

All photos: Monique Jaques

2019 may finally be the year for ‘The Search Engine That Doesn’t Track You’

In late November, hotel conglomerate Marriott International disclosed that the personal information of some 500 million customers — including home addresses, phone numbers, and credit card numbers — had been exposed as part of a data breach affecting its Starwood Hotels and Resorts network. One day earlier, the venerable breakfast chain Dunkin’ (née Donuts) announced that its rewards program had been compromised. Only two weeks before that, it was revealed that a major two-factor authentication provider had exposed millions of temporary account passwords and reset links for Google, Amazon, HQ Trivia, Yahoo, and Microsoft users.

These were just the icing on the cake for a year of compromised data: Adidas, Orbitz, Macy’s, Under Armour, Sears, Forever 21, Whole Foods, Ticketfly, Delta, Panera Bread, and Best Buy, just to name a few, were all affected by security breaches.

Meanwhile, there’s a growing sense that the tech giants have finally turned on their users. Amazon dominates so many facets of the online shopping experience that legislators mayhave to rewrite antitrust law to rein them in. Google has been playing fast and loose with its “Don’t Be Evil” mantra by almost launching a censored search engine for the Chinese government while simultaneously developing killer A.I. for Pentagon drones. And we now know that Facebook collected people’s personal data without their consent, let companies such as Spotify and Netflix look at users’ private messages, fueled fake news and Donald Trump, and was used to facilitate a genocide in Myanmar.

The backlash against these companies dominated our national discourse in 2018. The European Union is cracking down on anticompetitive practices at Amazon and Google. Both Facebook and Twitter have had their turns in the congressional hot seat, facing questions from slightly confused but definitely irate lawmakers about how the two companies choose what information to show us and what they do with our data when we’re not looking. Worries over privacy have led everyone from the New York Times to Brian Acton, the disgruntled co-founder of Facebook-owned WhatsApp, to call for a Facebook exodus. And judging by Facebook’s stagnating rate of user growth, people seem to be listening.

For Gabriel Weinberg, the founder and CEO of privacy-focused search engine DuckDuckGo, our growing tech skepticism recalls the early 1900s, when Upton Sinclair’s novel The Jungle revealed the previously unexamined horrors of the meatpacking industry. “Industries have historically gone through periods of almost ignorant bliss, and then people start to expose how the sausage is being made,” he says.

Gabriel Weinberg, DuckDuckGo CEO and Founder

This, in a nutshell, is DuckDuckGo’s proposition: “The big tech companies are taking advantage of you by selling your data. We won’t.” In effect, it’s an anti-sales sales pitch. DuckDuckGo is perhaps the most prominent in a number of small but rapidly growing firms attempting to make it big — or at least sustainable — by putting their customers’ privacy and security first. And unlike the previous generation of privacy products, such as Tor or SecureDrop, these services are easy to use and intuitive, and their user bases aren’t exclusively composed of political activists, security researchers, and paranoiacs. The same day Weinberg and I spoke, DuckDuckGo’s search engine returned results for 33,626,258 queries — a new daily record for the company. Weinberg estimates that since 2014, DuckDuckGo’s traffic has been increasing at a rate of “about 50 percent a year,” a claim backed up by the company’s publicly available traffic data.

Just before DuckDuckGo’s entrance sits a welcome mat that reads, “COME BACK WITH A WARRANT.”

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“You can run a profitable company — which we are — without [using] a surveillance business model,” Weinberg says. If he’s right, DuckDuckGo stands to capitalize handsomely off our collective backlash against the giants of the web economy …

READ ALL >>>

2019 may finally be the year for ‘The Search Engine That Doesn’t Track You’

All photos: Monique Jaques

In late November, hotel conglomerate Marriott International disclosed that the personal information of some 500 million customers — including home addresses, phone numbers, and credit card numbers — had been exposed as part of a data breach affecting its Starwood Hotels and Resorts network. One day earlier, the venerable breakfast chain Dunkin’ (née Donuts) announced that its rewards program had been compromised. Only two weeks before that, it was revealed that a major two-factor authentication provider had exposed millions of temporary account passwords and reset links for Google, Amazon, HQ Trivia, Yahoo, and Microsoft users.

These were just the icing on the cake for a year of compromised data: Adidas, Orbitz, Macy’s, Under Armour, Sears, Forever 21, Whole Foods, Ticketfly, Delta, Panera Bread, and Best Buy, just to name a few, were all affected by security breaches.

Meanwhile, there’s a growing sense that the tech giants have finally turned on their users. Amazon dominates so many facets of the online shopping experience that legislators mayhave to rewrite antitrust law to rein them in. Google has been playing fast and loose with its “Don’t Be Evil” mantra by almost launching a censored search engine for the Chinese government while simultaneously developing killer A.I. for Pentagon drones. And we now know that Facebook collected people’s personal data without their consent, let companies such as Spotify and Netflix look at users’ private messages, fueled fake news and Donald Trump, and was used to facilitate a genocide in Myanmar.

The backlash against these companies dominated our national discourse in 2018. The European Union is cracking down on anticompetitive practices at Amazon and Google. Both Facebook and Twitter have had their turns in the congressional hot seat, facing questions from slightly confused but definitely irate lawmakers about how the two companies choose what information to show us and what they do with our data when we’re not looking. Worries over privacy have led everyone from the New York Times to Brian Acton, the disgruntled co-founder of Facebook-owned WhatsApp, to call for a Facebook exodus. And judging by Facebook’s stagnating rate of user growth, people seem to be listening.

For Gabriel Weinberg, the founder and CEO of privacy-focused search engine DuckDuckGo, our growing tech skepticism recalls the early 1900s, when Upton Sinclair’s novel The Jungle revealed the previously unexamined horrors of the meatpacking industry. “Industries have historically gone through periods of almost ignorant bliss, and then people start to expose how the sausage is being made,” he says.

Gabriel Weinberg, DuckDuckGo CEO and Founder

This, in a nutshell, is DuckDuckGo’s proposition: “The big tech companies are taking advantage of you by selling your data. We won’t.” In effect, it’s an anti-sales sales pitch. DuckDuckGo is perhaps the most prominent in a number of small but rapidly growing firms attempting to make it big — or at least sustainable — by putting their customers’ privacy and security first. And unlike the previous generation of privacy products, such as Tor or SecureDrop, these services are easy to use and intuitive, and their user bases aren’t exclusively composed of political activists, security researchers, and paranoiacs. The same day Weinberg and I spoke, DuckDuckGo’s search engine returned results for 33,626,258 queries — a new daily record for the company. Weinberg estimates that since 2014, DuckDuckGo’s traffic has been increasing at a rate of “about 50 percent a year,” a claim backed up by the company’s publicly available traffic data.

Just before DuckDuckGo’s entrance sits a welcome mat that reads, “COME BACK WITH A WARRANT.”

“You can run a profitable company — which we are — without [using] a surveillance business model,” Weinberg says. If he’s right, DuckDuckGo stands to capitalize handsomely off our collective backlash against the giants of the web economy and establish a prominent brand in the coming era of data privacy. If he’s wrong, his company looks more like a last dying gasp before surveillance capitalism finally takes over the world.


DuckDuckGo is based just east of nowhere. Not in the Bay Area, or New York, or Weinberg’s hometown of Atlanta, or in Boston, where he and his wife met while attending MIT. Instead, DuckDuckGo headquarters is set along a side street just off the main drag of Paoli, Pennsylvania, in a building that looks like a cross between a Pennsylvania Dutch house and a modest Catholic church, on the second floor above a laser eye surgery center. Stained-glass windows look out onto the street, and a small statue of an angel hangs precariously off the roof. On the second floor, a door leading out to a balcony is framed by a pair of friendly looking cartoon ducks, one of which wears an eye patch. Just before DuckDuckGo’s entrance sits a welcome mat that reads “COME BACK WITH A WARRANT.”

“People don’t generally show up at our doorstep, but I hope that at some point it’ll be useful,” Weinberg tells me, sitting on a couch a few feet from an Aqua Teen Hunger Force mural that takes up a quarter of a wall. At 39, he is energetic, affable, and generally much more at ease with himself than the stereotypical tech CEO. The office around us looks like it was furnished by the set designer of Ready Player One: a Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy print in the entryway, Japanese-style panels depicting the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in the bathroom, and a vintage-looking RoboCop pinball machine in the break room. There’s even a Lego model of the DeLorean from Back to the Future on his desk. The furniture, Weinberg tells me, is mostly from Ikea. The lamp in the communal area is a hand-me-down from his mom.

Weinberg learned basic programming on an Atari while he was still in elementary school. Before hitting puberty, he’d built an early internet bulletin board. “It didn’t really have a purpose” in the beginning, Weinberg says. The one feature that made his bulletin board unique, he says, was that he hosted anonymous AMA-style question panels with his father, an infectious disease doctor with substantial experience treating AIDS patients. This was during the early 1990s, when the stigma surrounding HIV and AIDS remained so great that doctors were known to deny treatment to those suffering from it. Weinberg says that the free—and private—medical advice made the board a valuable resource for the small number of people who found it. It was an early instance of Weinberg’s interest in facilitating access to information, as well as a cogent example of the power of online privacy: “The ability to access informational resources anonymously actually opens up that access significantly,” he told me over email.

After graduating from MIT in 2001, Weinberg launched a slew of businesses, none of which are particularly memorable. First there was an educational software program called Learnection. (“Terrible name… the idea was good, but 15 years too early,” he says.) Then he co-founded an early social networking company called Opobox, taking on no employees and writing all the code himself. “Facebook just kind of obliterated it,” Weinberg says, though he was able to sell the network to the parent company of Classmates.com for roughly $10 million in cash in 2006.

It was around that time when Weinberg began working on what would become DuckDuckGo. Google had yet to achieve total hegemony over the internet search field, and Weinberg felt that he could create a browser plugin that might help eliminate the scourge of spammy search results in other search engines.

Weinberg bought a billboard in San Francisco that proudly proclaimed, “Google tracks you. We don’t.” The stunt paid off in spades, doubling DuckDuckGo’s daily search traffic.

To build an algorithm that weeded out bad search results, he first had to do it by hand. “I took a large sample of different pages and hand-marked them as ‘spam’ or ‘not spam.’” The process of scraping the web, Weinberg says, inadvertently earned him a visit from the FBI. “Once they realized I was just crawling the web, they just went away,” he says. He also experimented with creating a proto-Quora service that allowed anyone to pose a question and have it answered by someone else, as well as a free alternative to Meetup.com. Eventually, he combined facets of all three efforts into a full-on search engine.

When Weinberg first launched DuckDuckGo in 2008 — the name is a wink to the children’s game of skipping over the wrong options to get to the right one — he differentiated his search engine by offering instant answers to basic questions (essentially an early open-source version of Google’s Answer Box), spam filtering, and highly customizable search results based on user preferences. “Those [were] things that early adopters kind of appreciated,” he says.

At the time, Weinberg says, consumer privacy was not a central concern. In 2009, when he made the decision to stop collecting personal search data, it was more a matter of practicality than a principled decision about civil liberties. Instead of storing troves of data on every user and targeting those users individually, DuckDuckGo would simply sell ads against search keywords. Most of DuckDuckGo’s revenue, he explains, is still generated this way. The system doesn’t capitalize on targeted ads, but, Weinberg says, “I think there’s a choice between squeezing out every ounce of profit and making ethical decisions that aren’t at the expense of society.”

Until 2011, Weinberg was DuckDuckGo’s sole full-time employee. That year, he pushed to expand the company. He bought a billboard in Google’s backyard of San Francisco that proudly proclaimed, “Google tracks you. We don’t.” (That defiant gesture and others like it were later parodied on HBO’s Silicon Valley.) The stunt paid off in spades, doubling DuckDuckGo’s daily search traffic. Weinberg began courting VC investors, eventually selling a minority stake in the company to Union Square Ventures, the firm that has also backed SoundCloud, Coinbase, Kickstarter, and Stripe. That fall, he hired his first full-time employee, and DuckDuckGo moved out of Weinberg’s house and into the strangest-looking office in all of Paoli, Pennsylvania.

Then, in 2013, digital privacy became front-page news. That year, NSA contractor Edward Snowden leaked a series of documents to the Guardian and the Washington Post revealing the existence of the NSA’s PRISM program, which granted the agency unfettered access to the personal data of millions of Americans through a secret back door into the servers of Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Apple, and other major internet firms. Though Google denied any knowledge of the program, the reputational damage had been done. DuckDuckGo rode a wave of press coverage, enjoying placement in stories that offered data privacy solutions to millions of newly freaked-out people worried that the government was spying on them.

“All of a sudden we were part of this international story,” Weinberg says. The next year, DuckDuckGo turned a profit. Shortly thereafter, Weinberg finally started paying himself a salary.


Today, DuckDuckGo employs 55 people, most of whom work remotely from around the world. (On the day I visited, there were maybe five employees in the Paoli office, plus one dog.) This year, the company went through its second funding round of VC funding, accepting a $10 million investment from Canadian firm OMERS. Weinberg insists that both OMERS and Union Square Ventures are “deeply interested in privacy and restoring power to the non-monopoly providers.” Later, via email, Weinberg declined to share DuckDuckGo’s exact revenue, beyond the fact that its 2018 gross revenue exceeded $25 million, a figure the company has chosen to disclose in order to stress that it is subject to the California Consumer Privacy Act. Weinberg feels that the company’s main challenge these days is improving brand recognition.

“I don’t think there’s many trustworthy entities on the internet, just straight-up,” he says. “Ads follow people around. Most people have gotten multiple data breaches. Most people know somebody who’s had some kind of identity theft issue. The percentage of people who’ve had those events happen to them has just grown and grown.”

The recent investment from OMERS has helped cover the cost of DuckDuckGo’s new app, launched in January 2018. The app, a lightweight mobile web browser for iOS and Android that’s also available as a Chrome plugin, is built around the DuckDuckGo search engine. It gives each site you visit a letter grade based on its privacy practices and has an option to let you know which web trackers — usually ones from Google, Facebook, or Comscore — it blocked from monitoring your browsing activity. After you’ve finished surfing, you can press a little flame icon and an oddly satisfying animated fire engulfs your screen, indicating that you’ve deleted your tabs and cleared your search history.

The rest of the recent investment, Weinberg says, has been spent on “trying to explain to people in the world that [DuckDuckGo] exists.” He continues, “That’s our main issue — the vast majority of people don’t realize there’s a simple solution to reduce their [online] footprint.” To that end, DuckDuckGo maintains an in-house consumer advocacy blog called Spread Privacy, offering helpful tips on how to protect yourself online as well as commentary and analysis on the state of online surveillance. Its most recent initiative was a study on how filter bubbles — the term for how a site like Google uses our data to show us what it thinks we want — can shape the political news we consume.

Brand recognition is a challenge for a lot of startups offering privacy-focused digital services. After all, the competition includes some of the biggest and most prominent companies in the world: Google, Apple, Facebook. And in some ways, this is an entire new sector of the market. “Privacy has traditionally not been a product; it’s been more like a set of best practices,” says David Temkin, chief product officer for the Brave web browser. “Imagine turning that set of best practices into a product. That’s kind of where we’re going.”

Like DuckDuckGo — whose search engine Brave incorporates into its private browsing mode — Brave doesn’t collect user data and blocks ads and web trackers by default. In 2018, Brave’s user base exploded from 1 million to 5.5 million, and the company reached a deal with HTC to be the default browser on the manufacturer’s upcoming Exodus smartphone.

Google knows that I’m in Durham, North Carolina. As far as DuckDuckGo is concerned, I may as well be on the moon

Temkin, who first moved out to the Bay Area in the early ’90s to work at Apple, says that the past two decades of consolidation under Google/Facebook/Netflix/Apple/Amazon have radically upended the notion of the internet as a safe haven for the individual. “It’s swung back to a very centralized model,” he says. “The digital advertising landscape has turned into a surveillance ecosystem. The way to optimize the value of advertising is through better targeting and better data collection. And, well, water goes downhill.”

In companies such as Brave and DuckDuckGo, Temkin sees a return to the more conscientious attitude behind early personal computing. “I think to an ordinary user, [privacy] is starting to sound like something they do need to care about,” he says.

But to succeed, these companies will have to make privacy as accessible and simple as possible. “Privacy’s not gonna win if it’s a specialist tool that requires an expert to wield,” Temkin says. “What we’re doing is trying to package [those practices] in a way that’s empathetic and respectful to the user but doesn’t impose the requirement for knowledge or the regular ongoing annoyance that might go with maintaining privacy on your own.”


In November, I decided to switch my personal search querying to DuckDuckGo in order to see whether it was a feasible solution to my online surveillance woes. Physically making the switch is relatively seamless. The search engine is already an optional default in browsers such as Safari, Microsoft Edge, and Firefox, as well as more niche browsers such as Brave and Tor, the latter of which made DuckDuckGo its default search in 2016.

Actually using the service, though, can be slightly disorienting. I use Google on a daily basis for one simple reason: It’s easy. When I need to find something online, it knows what to look for. To boot, it gives me free email, which is connected to the free word processor that my editor and I are using to work on this article together in real time. It knows me. It’s only when I consider the implications of handing over a digital record of my life to a massive company that the sense of free-floating dread about digital surveillance kicks in. Otherwise, it’s great. And that’s the exact hurdle DuckDuckGo is trying to convince people to clear.

Using DuckDuckGo can feel like relearning to walk after you’ve spent a decade flying. On Google, a search for, say, “vape shop” yields a map of vape shops in my area. On DuckDuckGo, that same search returns a list of online vaporizer retailers. The difference, of course, is the data: Google knows that I’m in Durham, North Carolina. As far as DuckDuckGo is concerned, I may as well be on the moon.

That’s not to say using DuckDuckGo is all bad. For one, it can feel mildly revelatory knowing that you’re seeing the same search results that anyone else would. It restores a sense of objectivity to the internet at a time when being online can feel like stepping into The Truman Show — a world created to serve and revolve around you. And I was able to look up stuff I wanted to know about — how to open a vacuum-sealed mattress I’d bought off the internet, the origin of the martingale dog collar, the latest insane thing Donald Trump did — all without the possibility of my search history coming back to haunt me in the form of ads for bedding, dog leashes, or anti-Trump knickknacks. Without personalized results, DuckDuckGo just needs to know what most people are looking for when they type in search terms and serve against that. And most of the time, we fit the profile of most people.

When I asked Weinberg if he wanted to displace Google as the top search engine in all the land, he demurred. “I mean, I wouldn’t be opposed to it,” he says, “but it’s really not our intention, and I don’t expect that to happen.” Instead, he’d like to see DuckDuckGo as a “second option” to Google for people who are interested in maintaining their online anonymity. “Even if you don’t have anything to hide, it doesn’t mean you want people to profit off your information or be manipulated or biased against as a result [of that information],” he says.

Even though DuckDuckGo may serve a different market and never even challenge Google head-on, the search giant remains its largest hurdle in the long term. For more than a decade, Google has been synonymous with search. And that association is hard, if not impossible, to break.

In the meantime, the two companies are on frosty terms. In 2010, Google obtained the domain duck.com as part of a larger business deal in a company formerly known as Duck Co. For years, the domain would redirect to Google’s search page, despite seeming like something you’d type into your browser while trying to get to DuckDuckGo. After DuckDuckGo petitioned for ownership for nearly a decade, Google finally handed over the domain in December. The acquisition was a minor branding coup for DuckDuckGo — and a potential hedge against accusations of antitrust for Google.

That doesn’t mean relations between the two companies have improved. As the Goliath in the room, Google could attempt to undercut DuckDuckGo’s entire business proposition. Over the past few years, even mainstream players have attempted to assuage our privacy anxieties by offering VPNs (Verizon), hosting “privacy pop-ups” (Facebook), and using their billions to fight against state surveillance in court (Microsoft). With some tweaks, Google could essentially copy DuckDuckGo wholesale and create its own privacy-focused search engine with many of the same protections DuckDuckGo has built its business on. As to whether people would actually believe that Google, a company that muscled its way into becoming an integral part of the online infrastructure by selling people’s data, could suddenly transform into a guardian of that data remains to be seen.

When it comes to the internet, trust is something easily lost and difficult to regain. In a sense, every time a giant of the internet surveillance economy is revealed to have sold out its customers in some innovatively horrifying way, the ensuing chaos almost serves as free advertising for DuckDuckGo. “The world keeps going in a bad direction, and it makes people think, ‘Hey, I would like to escape some of the bad stuff on the internet and go to a safer place,’” Weinberg says. “And that’s where we see ourselves.”

–>

Virtual ID has arrived – why you should resist taking it up

November 4, 2014

Every human being (and their dogs) in Britain is to be provided with a government-backed virtual ID to store personal data online, file tax returns and apply for driving licences through a single portal, the lead story in The Times informs us today.

Now you may hear Labour supporters and others of the authoritarian left screaming that the plan exposes the intention of The Conservatives to create a police state, do not be taken in; this is the idea floated by Labour under Blair to compel us all to BUY and electronic ID card which would replace our passport, driving licence and be the only way of accessing government services to claim benefits, seek healthcare or deal with any government department. That plan was shelved due to firce and overwhelming public opposition but at the time sceptics and dissident organisations were warning bureaucrats never abandoned a plan to extend their tyrannical reach.

And now with the Conservative led coalition facing an election in less than twelve months and the civil servants and public service unions desperatle wanting a free spending (and borrowing), personal liberty curtailing, Labour government back in power because Labour always presides over a massive increase in the size of government, we see the ID card idea back with slightly less scary window dressing. Within a year of their launch, more than half a million people are expected to start using the new “Verify” scheme to prove their identity, under a radical expansion of public services available online.

And how many years will it be before they are compulsory and beining outside one’s home without an official permit is an arrestable offence (bright sparks may recall this was part of the Labour ID card scheme)

Most people don’t have a clue what manner of government control over our personal liberty with personal electronic ID will pave the way for. A massive US government and corporate partnership has been developing “web ID,” a master password matching you with your online activities which the partnership hopes to sell to governments around the world. It is one gate by which all will enter. And one gate means one gatekeeper. The virtual ID is the final step into a world of global fascism. Why do you think the Obama administration in the USA has been so keen to try to subjugate nations whose governments are likely to resist its global hegemony?

The purpose of this scheme is to eventually be able to verify every single person who uses the web. You will have one master password for all of your use and transactions. It will link to your biometric ID which will include fingerprints, iris regognition facial recognition and voice patterns. The intention is that the system will track and store your every action, location and much more. Without it you will not be able to buy a radio or TV, take a flight, transact money, get a job, claim benefits, pay your bills or see your doctor. It will be a universal aggregator of your data.

And what do you think will become of your right to free speech or personal protest then? Too effing right they’ll disappear, faster than a white rabbit in a magician’s hat. And you too, think about it, the human you will cease to exist as far as the intitutions of state are concerned, no virtual ID, no you. Your online presence will be your only existence.

As the system rolls out it will become ‘internationalised’ (whatever that means, it can’t be good for our personal liberty). When Virtual or Smart ID becomes mandatory as it will because there is no point in these cards unless every human being is required to use one, privacy will be gone forever.

As Edward Snowden said GCHQ is more dangerous than the NSA and without Snowden we wouldn’t even be aware of the curently possible privacy breaches in the first place let alone a full-on biometric ID with all your personal data in the hands of government agencies. They will use it to control you, abuse it to rob you of your human rights and sell it to corporate interests so they may more easily steal from you. People are individuals not assets to be exploited and controlled, which is what this latest corporate – bureaucratic fascist abomination is about.

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Intrusive Technology, Evil control Freaks, The Dystiopianometer

March 29, 2014

man machine
Man = machine (picture blogspot commons)

Some time ago Boggart Blog invented the Orwell – Huxley – dick index to chart our descent into a dystopian society that lets the oligarchs live in splendour while the rest of us poor punters try to scrabble a living in the lawless, uncleaned streets. We have reported on progress towards the total surveillance society, the use of mass media in manipulating behaviour and the development of new and ever more intrusive technologies to report our activities and get instructions and “advice” from data centres right in our faces. The powers that be are ever encouraging their pet scientists to work on transhumanism, turning us all into cybodgs, part human, part machine, remotely controlled from a data centre.

And yet we are told the machines are our friends, and the intrusions into our privacy are for our benefit. as if we all need to be watched over by Machines of Loving Grace because after a few million years of evolution, most of which for our ancestors was a daily struggle for survival, we can’t cope alone.

The mistake many people make is to think technology is evil but cannot be resisted. Technology is dumb, you may have heard idiot scientists blethering about artificial intelligence but with a long career in computers behind me, talk of intelligent machines that think like humans only demonstrates an inability to yell the difference between science fiction and reality. Technology is not evil, but too often the people who control it are. On the good side however, we can resist them, all we have to do is think for ourselves and question everything.

In a secular sense evil is not about horned beasts that fart pure hydrogen sulphide. It is about total selfishness and lack of empathy with other humans and therefore a complete disregard for their needs, feelings and wellbeing.

It was always obvious to people working in information technology that while it offered the potential to improve life greatly, it could also easily become a gift wrapped opportunity for fascistic organisations to control information, suppress free speech and manipulate behaviour.

The extensive and intrusive surveillance carried on by the US, UK and EU governments demonstrated the ability of the sick individuals who control technology to create a Panopticon, a prison society with inmates (us) under total surveillance. all the usual suspects are still in the game of course, Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Amazon (who surely have developed artificial stupidity rather than artificial intelligence), Cisco, Apple, along with governments.

In the most recent example of corporate fascism via technology, a leading IBM official has resorted to threats and bullying and urged the world to “embrace” ubiquitous surveillance of the public through biometrics, because, he argues, it is too late to fight against it. (“Resistance is futile, you will be assimilated,” to quote Star Trek.)

“…trying to stop this would be fighting the wrong battle.” said Peter Waggett, Programme Leader at IBM’s Emerging Technology Group.

“We’re fighting the wrong battle when we ask should we stop people being observed. That is not going to be feasible. We need to understand how to use that data better,” Waggett added, speaking at a Nesta panel debate on biometrics.

“The information is out of the bottle already — we have to deal with the issues surrounding it now. Embrace the challenge of what we’ve got, embrace understanding it and focus on what we can do with that new data.” he argued, urging people to stop worrying about preventing such surveillance from becoming a societal norm.

“I’ve been working in biometrics for 20 years, and it’s reaching a tipping point where it’s going to be impossible not to understand where people are and what they are doing. Everything will be monitored.” Waggett continued.

A big worry to privacy campaigners, Waggett’s words are all the more scary given that he also heads the BSI British Standards Biometrics Committee – a group set up to develop formal standards in the area of biometrics and promoting their use by government and industry.

During the debate, Waggett referred specifically to depictions of biometric technology in dystopian films such as Minority Report, arguing that such technology is now already in place and unavoidable.

In the film, adapted from Philip K. Dick’s story, the public are under total surveillance from biometric technology linked to massive distributed databases. This snooping is as yet usually used for targeted advertising and the encouragement of mass consumption.

It will not stop there however. The corporate cartels want total control and will stop at nothing less, while the biggest flaw of the scientific (semi – autistic) mindset is it must always go further. Ethical constraints do not exist for such people and ” because we can” is always sufficient justification for doing anything.

The pressure to ID people everywhere they are and whatever they do is growing. Insane, neo Nazi ideas like “the internet of things,” (washing machines and fridges that tell the government about you) will progress it, Waggett noted arguing that people’s biometrics should be made more readily available, by which we must assume that IBM are pushing the idea of RFID chips implanted under our skin. The technology is more sophisticated but the social environment promises to be as oppressive as that of the Big brother regime envisaged in George Orwell’s novel 1984

“Privacy campaigners want to block facial recognition to stop people using invasive technology, but I think a lot of these things can be used for good.” Waggett added, without actually mentioning what good such developments can do.

IBM has recently made headlines because of its involvement in the NSA surveillance scandal. The company is being sued by shareholders for an alleged failure to disclose its involvement in the PRISM program for spying in citizens. The company denies it co-operated with security agencies and claims it has never given customer data or software keys to anyone.

Of course, the company’s shady past with regard to working directly with tyrannical governments to enslave and people is well known. ..

In this context, Waggett’s declarations on how we should all just stop worrying and learn to love the servitude that will be our lot in this Brave New World that is so like the one invented by Aldous Huxley will be greeted with contempt by those of us who are awake to how our world is being hijacked.

The needle of the Orwell Huxley Dick dystopianometer is creeping up.

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"They" Have Their Spies In Your TV Now

November 21, 2013

You can understand why Doctor Beet wondered WTF was going on. His new web enabled LG TV was showing him ads on its home screen. Being a bit of a nerd he investigated and discovered a hidden, undocumented setting to switch off collection of his viewing habits.

Still suspicious, as you would be because why would a device for watching TV programmes collect data on your viewing habits when TV is a non interactive medium, he monitored the packets flowing from his TV’s network interface and discovered that even with this “data-collection” switch set to off the TV still phoned home with the name of every program he or his family chose to watch, as well as the filenames of every video he loaded over its USB interface. All of this data was sent in the clear to LG’s servers.

And they built a “picture” of his tastes and aim targeted ads at him.

When he contacted LG, they told him “tough, you consented to have your privacy invaded to this by clicking through the EULA, oh and BTW, you might tell your wife her minge hair needs a bit of a trim before you next have sex on the sofa.” Then they advised the customer that they did not give a flying fuck about his or any other customer’s feelings once the money had cleared into their account and that if he had any complaints to take up with the store where he bought the set, because they should have told him about the spying before selling it to him.

Except of course, retailers are not told they are selling surveillance equipment disguised as Television sets.

If you are one of those pathetic sheeple who never does anything interesting and so thinks it is OK for businesses, government and really eviul bastards to gather data on your activities coz … well technology is so wonderful, do you know who has been looking at you bank account recently? Do you. Do you want the boss to know you watch Chicks With Dicks at 11:30 pm on Channel 5?

TV phones Home With Your Viewing Habits

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Living Within The Conspiracy

Nothing to hide

November 1, 2013

You have nothing to fear of you have done nothing wrong.
They’ve all said it, Blair, Brown, various Labour home secretaries as their wretched, illiberal government churned out new laws faster than the Stationery Office could purchase paper to print them all on, Cameron and Hague, Obama and Bush …

CCTV Surveillance? Only those who are up to no good need worry about it.

Electronic eavesdropping on phone and internet activity?
If you have nothing to hide what are you afraid of the government snooping on your computer?

Computer system security failures?
If you are a law abiding citizen why do you not want your personal data published online?

The shits who rule us and the whores who service them don’t seem to understand the simple principle of privacy, that if what we do is within the law its none of their fucking business.

Here’s a reminder of why we must not surrender that principle.

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