google
thoughts

What The Heck, Google? – Published in Hacker Noon

So Google has a version of its search engine in the works for China. However, this version is/will be openly censored to comply with Chinese censorship. The project is known as “Project Dragonfly” and was intended to be confidential.

Employees working on the project were told “to avoid referencing it around our team members, and if they ask [what we’re working on], to deflect questions”.

While I’ve had my issues with Google for awhile, none of them have been as serious as this one: Google, one of the largest companies in the world, is bending to accommodate the largest authoritarian regime in the world.

Google’s Mission Statement

If Google’s goal is really to make the world’s information universally accessible, isn’t this move a step in the wrong direction?

This isn’t the first time that Google employees have been upset with the company. Recently the company received backlash for a military drone project it was working on with the Pentagon. Unfortunately, I can’t see how either of these projects align with Google’s mission statement.

Perhaps Google has made the decision that allowing any information to flow into China is better than simply ignoring the country’s massive population altogether. China’s internet user base is about 775 million people, double the US population.

While Google hasn’t publicly stated their intentions with China, it looks like the company is far more focused on the profits from China than the free flow of information for everyone.

Alternatives To Google

If Google’s latest decisions worry you, as they have for me, there are plenty of alternative products out there. Perhaps some of these will align with your own values better than Google.

Try These Alternatives ⤵️

The Best Private Search Engines – Alternatives to Google


Read Original Article in Hacker Noon

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Privacy

What is Search Encrypt?

I’m taking a look at a relatively new search engine, Search Encrypt. It is a privacy based search engine, comparable to DuckDuckGo and StartPage.

How Does Search Encrypt Work?

According to Search Encrypt’s “About” page, this is what happens when a user performs a search:

  1. Search Encrypt checks the URL of each website you visit (this data is not logged or stored anywhere).
  2. For your privacy, Search Encrypt intercepts the requests if it’s on our list of sites.
  3. Search Encrypt encrypts your search locally using industry standard AES-256 encryption.
  4. Your locally encrypted search term is securely transmitted to our servers.
  5. To provide you with the most relevant results possible, we then decrypt your search term and securely request results from our search & content partners.
  6. We aggregate the most relevant results and securely display them to you.
  7. For added security, your local browsing history for any search we protect expires and cannot be viewed after 15 minutes of inactivity.

History of Search Encrypt

The search engine started in April 2016. Two entrepreneurs who were tired of being followed around the web by trackers and ads decided they needed something better. Since its founding, Search Encrypt has added many new features, including a Chrome extension and improvements in search results.

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Search Encrypt’s Alexa ranking: 1691

2017 was a fantastic year for private search engines. Search Encrypt saw major increases in traffic and searches. It’s Alexa ranking improved drastically following April 2017. It is now the 1691st most visited website in the world.

Search Encrypt’s User Privacy

This infographic from Search Encrypt’s blog explains how Search Encrypt maintains your privacy.

Online Privacy

I’ve been writing about privacy a lot recently. ( I’m actually a “Top Writer” on Medium for privacy.) A few topics I have covered are IoT devices, user tracking and privacy based browser extensions. It’s been a new experience for me following a topic that I haven’t previous been interested in. I’ve found some influencers in the privacy realm and enjoy learning from them. Privacy is an interesting niche, because of the range of people it attracts.

There are programmers that recognize how powerful software and computers can be in following the people that use them. These people want to protect themselves while using the internet and connected devices. Then there are people, young and old, that are skeptical in general about technology. Their defense to user-tracking or hackers is simply to abstain from using computers, or even cellphones in some cases.

The people interested in privacy that still have an online presence always look into the deepest corners of a product or service. These people know that a product is safe because they have verified for themselves.

Search Encrypt and Privacy

search-encrypt-icon

Search Encrypt is a cool product because it protects users from tracking, filter bubbles, and other online threats. It protects users from potentially having their Google accounts hacked and, as a result, a lot more information.

Private search engines will continue to grow as the concerns surrounding digital privacy and the right to privacy grow.

Learn More About Search Encrypt

Follow Search Encrypt on Twitter

Search Encrypt Wikipedia

Search Encrypt Blog

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digital advertising

Every Consumer IoT Device Should be Free

Devices are getting smarter. Everything from cellphones to refrigerators are connected to the internet. By 2020, there will be more than 20 billion IoT units in the world. The number of IoT devices in the world recently surpassed the world’s population.

The installed base of hard-to-secure smart things, such as TVs, fridges, and security cameras, is expected to grow 31 percent this year to reach 8.4 billion devices, or around a billion more than the world’s total population.

Why Should IoT Connected Devices Be Free?

IoT devices are portrayed as handy household gadgets, that help make users’ lives easier. The truth is, these devices are convenient and fun to use. However, the benefit to the user is dwarfed by the benefit to the companies with the data these devices collect.Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Assistant are friendly helpers for their users. Although they seem helpful and friendly they are actually just a channel for these companies to acquire more data. Siri and Alexa, along with other digital assistants, are spies disguised as reliable aides.

Siri reports back to Apple and Alexa back to Amazon with a heap of information about the questions you asked and the topics of your conversations. And in the case of Google Home, it records everything, whether or not you ask it to.

Google stores your interactions with Google Home in My Activity, that includes the recordings of the questions you’ve asked or any other recordings the device made.

People Pay Google to Collect Information About Them

Data collection and analysis firms, like Nielsen, spend millions of dollars per year on acquiring information from consumers. Google though doesn’t have to buy information, because people willingly hand it over to them.

And in the case of Google Home and Google’s other IoT devices, people pay Google to collect their data. This is the case with most smart home devices, people are paying the companies. Then, along with the money, the company receives information from its “smart” data-sponge device.

Mozilla’s Gift Guide of IoT Devices

Mozilla is a leader in internet security and safety. It’s goal is to “defend the free and open web”. It published this gift guide to explain the privacy implications for some of the most popular gifts this season.

In this article, Mozilla lists these questions to ask yourself when considering your IoT devices:

  • Can it spy on me?
  • What does it know about me?
  • What could happen if something goes wrong?

However, it then explains that the companies producing these devices don’t make the answer to these questions obvious. Answering these questions, Mozilla says, “requires top privacy research skills as well as some high-level technical skills.”

IoT Security Concerns

The security issues may have a bigger effect on device sales this holiday season than expected. Consulting firm Deloitte released a survey in November in which 40% of respondents said they were concerned about home devices tracking their usage. If people are concerned about being tracked in their homes, they may wait for IoT security to catch up with other industries before buying the devices.

IoT Security Improvements

As IoT finds more uses in business and other large-scale infrastructure, the security concerns will ramp up significantly. This should lead to consumer devices also adopting better security.

 

As of now, a hack into a single IoT device would likely only lead to breaches in that single user’s personal data. But if an entire city’s traffic light system was connected and a breach occured, it could have very costly impacts. What is mostly a privacy concern for digital assistant users, could be a safety and security concern when applied to larger systems.

IoT Devices Are Risky, So Why Should We Pay for Them?

Bringing more connected devices into your home, really just makes you more vulnerable. These devices act as another point in which hackers could access your data. And some of these devices, like Amazon’s Echo Show, have cameras and microphones that could lead to major breaches of privacy.

If Amazon, Google and Apple all will benefit from the massive influx of user data, why should consumers have to risk losing private data and pay for the devices that make them vulnerable?

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Uncategorized

The Best Browser Extensions for Privacy

So I’m now a Top Writer on Medium for Privacy. I originally posted this article on Medium.

There are tons of options for browser extensions that will help improve your user experience on the web. If you are concerned about your digital privacy (you should be), you can use browser extensions to bolster your protection. In some cases, these extensions can speed up your browser by blocking website features that would slow down load times. Some of these tools are even endorsed by Edward Snowden.

Browser Extensions That Protect Your Privacy

These browser extensions have the Search Encrypt seal of approval. They all align with our vision for creating a safer web with more emphasis on privacy.

Ghostery

Ghostery detects tracking on websites you visit and then blocks the tracking to speed up page load times. It eliminates clutter while protecting your data. Ghostery recently deployed artificial intelligence which should greatly improve its already strong ad-blocking and tracker blocking. This extension is also the ad-blocker of choice for Edward Snowden.

Privacy Badger

This one is similar to Ghostery in that it blocks tracking. However, rather than blocking all content, it only blocks the tracking scripts that follow you from one site to another. When it Privacy Badger detects a source that is tracking you across different websites, it tells your browser to stop loading the content from that source. Although, Privacy Badger has one feature that really sets it apart. If the content that is tracking you is essential to a page’s functionality, Privacy Badger will allow it to load with the tracking capabilities blocked.

Disconnect

Disconnect offers many browser extensions for mobile and desktop. Its main browser extension is called Disconnect Private Browsing. Disconnect works by blocking third parties from tracking the webpages you visit. Whenever a site makes a network request to connect to anything besides the site you’re visiting, it won’t be able to load that extra content.

NoScript Security Suite

NoScript is an extension for Mozilla Firefox that blocks malicious scripts that could be used for tracking purposes. It blocks scripts, plug-ins and other code that could attack your system. Edward Snowden endorses NoScript Security Suite as a tool to fight Surveillance States.

ScriptSafe

ScriptSafe is like NoScript, but works for Google Chrome and other browsers. It has solid reviews and positive responses from its users online. It allows users to easily switch the blocking on and off, if they want to temporarily allow some feature to load. It has recently updated to be more intuitive and user-friendly. ScriptSafe also uses a privacy by design model, which means it uses a “block first, ask later” approach. So some websites you may visit regularly may be blocked by default.

Search Encrypt

Obviously, no list of ours would be complete without Search Encrypt. Search Encrypt is a tool that helps keep your search data private. It intercepts any tracked searches you may try. This is helpful if you are consistently using search engines that track you. You can easily avoid those searches with our extension. We use industry standard AES-256 encryption, and your search history expires so that it is invisible to anyone who may use your computer. Try Search Encrypt Here.

This guide can help you add the Search Encrypt extension to Chrome, if you need help.

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thoughts

I’m a Brand Evangelist

I’m a marketer.

My job is to represent brands. I find whatever it is about the brand that people connect with, and I promote the shit out of it.

To be an effective marketing professional, you have to see value in the brand yourself, or you’ll have a hard time being a good spokesperson.

If the people responsible for representing the brand don’t believe in it or find it valuable, the publicity will be poor. It will lack authenticity. It takes a little naivety to be successful at first. Odds are your first job won’t be sharing something you are incredibly excited about.

However, whatever it is that gets you excited about your brand, will likely get other people excited too. The key is finding that thing, or selling point, and spreading the word about it. Be a cheerleader for your brand. Smile and rally support for your team.

Keep this one thing in mind: Your job is to sell people on the strong parts, not to educate them on the good and bad aspects.

Through SEO, I try to put out enough good, so that any negative press or portrayals of our brand are hidden by the heaps of good publicity I’ve created.

Marketing/SEO/Advertising/Social Media and other forms of brand representation all have unique challenges, but at the end of the day you have to be loyal to your brand if you’re going to find customers who truly are loyal as well.

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thoughts

Want To Be Healthy? Be Grateful.

I originally posted this over on Medium.

Want To Be Healthy? Be Thankful.

Last weekend, Mom dragged me to COR because she said she wanted to go hear the music. I agreed, since I hadn’t been to service in the new building. This week I went again, because…well, the music was good.

They recently added a massive new sanctuary with a massive (seriously) stained glass window and the result is stunning. Tim Carey designed the window, a depiction of Jesus and the story of the bible, which is actually the largest stained glass window in the world.

Side note: As a kid, my church didn’t have a massive stained glass window, so I was left to stare at the beige cross in front of the off-white wall if I got bored. And thankfully this window is behind the alter, so you can space off and stare at the colorful image and look like you’re paying attention.

What Is Gratitude?

Gratitude can be trait, a mood and an emotion. Overall, it’s the feeling or expression of being thankful. It is one aspect of many religions: Judaism, Islam and Christianity all encourage gratitude towards others. Beyond religion, gratitude is shown to improve your well-being, mood and health. So it’s a good thing to be thankful or show gratitude for what you have or what people do for you.

Why Gratitude Makes You Healthy

“If [thankfulness] were a drug, it would be the world’s best-selling product with a health maintenance indication for every major organ system.” -Dr. P. Murali Doraiswamy

By being grateful, and focusing on being appreciative, your outlook on life generally improves. If you spend your time thinking about the positive parts of your life that make you happy, as a result, you will be happier.

“Some people may not be grateful by nature but it is a habit you can get accustomed to,” said Dr. Norman Rosenthal, a psychiatrist and author of “Winter Blues.”

If you’re trying not to get sick this winter, maybe it’s a grateful attitude you need, not a flu shot.

Research shows that when we think about what we appreciate, the parasympathetic or calming part of the nervous system is triggered and that can have protective benefits on the body, including decreasing cortisol levels and perhaps increasing oxytocin, the bonding hormone involved in relationships that make us feel so good.

Why Being Thankful Is Hard

There are so many things that can easily take your focus away from being thankful. Social media, for example, is a constant feed of people showing their happiness and their achievements. It’s easy to start comparing yourself to your friends and then feel less thankful for what you, yourself, have.

As humans, our ability to adapt to new situations also hinders our ability to be thankful. This is because regardless of positive or negative changes to our situations, we return to a stable level of happiness. If your happiness is manifested in achievements, each achievement is followed by a short burst of happiness and then a return to the same level as before. This is called the “hedonic treadmill” or “hedonic adaptation”.

The Hedonic Treadmill

This adaptation is good and bad. It allows for people in terrible circumstances or have suffered great losses to achieve happiness again after a short period of mourning. Unfortunately though, people who have achieved great things and are in positive environments shortly lose their happiness and return to their “baseline”.

How Gratitude Can Boost Your Career

If you are in a leadership role, no matter the size of your company, making your employees feel recognized and appreciated will lead to them being more engaged. When asked what leaders could do more of to improve engagement, 58% of respondents replied “Give recognition.”

People generally value recognition and feeling appreciated more than higher salaries. If you think that you could improve your company’s culture, shift toward recognizing your co-workers and employees for their achievements. It will probably mean more to them than giving them the paycheck that they would have received anyway.

Outside of your work, if you reflect on it, the people closest to you are probably the ones you take for granted the most. Let them know you appreciate all they do for you, even if its just a text or a note.

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