Google has quietly dropped ban on personally identifiable web tracking

Google has reversed an earlier made promise on privacy and will now allow personally identifiable web tracking:

We may combine personal information from one service with information, including personal information, from other Google services — for example to make it easier to share things with people you know. […] Depending on your account settings, your activity on other sites and apps may be associated with your personal information in order to improve Google’s services and the ads delivered by Google. […]

Read more at https://www.propublica.org/article/google-has-quietly-dropped-ban-on-personally-identifiable-web-tracking or on https://soylentnews.org/article.pl?sid=16/10/22/0154217

IvyDNS protects you from tracking that is done by these large players. Sign up with IvyDNS to protect your privacy on-line.

The fallacy of “personalized advertising”

When peddlers of on-line advertising talk about their product, they hail ‘personalized advertising’ as a good thing, something you should actively want because, so they claim, “it is relevant content”.
But if you think carefully about it, you soon realize that this framing of the situation starts from an incorrect premise, namely that it is OK to be abused by adverts and that personalization of these ads is a cherry on top of the cake.

We disagree with this for at least the following reasons:

  • By definition, advertising is manipulative: its sole purpose is to change your behavior or opinion in favor of the advertised product or service.
  • Advertising interferes with what you are doing. Think about the last time you said to yourself “I’d love to watch some (on-line) ads now instead of doing what I set out to do”. Take your time…
    Almost no-one likes ads or is eagerly anticipating whatever they are trying to do or accomplish, to be interrupted by an ad.
  • Most people reluctantly accept advertising as a necessary evil, a way to fund things that would otherwise not get funded. This in itself is a huge indemnification of advertising and shows that, fundamentally, it is not something we desire, instead, we endure it… (even though there are ways to pay for these things; just search for the “(digital) subscription” link on, for instance, your favorite on-line news provider)
  • Personalized advertising, by definition, requires an invasion of your privacy: it only works if and when you tell third parties things about you that you would otherwise never reveal. This is so that the system can get to know you, can learn about you and figure out which impulses you are most vulnerable to.
  • Personalized advertising works against you: it finds your weaknesses by following you everywhere and then exploits what it finds in order to cajole you into performing actions you would otherwise not perform, namely spending your hard-earned money.

Personalized advertising is not acceptable and is really nothing more than an admission that “we realize everyone hates ads, we’re going to make the pill less bitter by trying to serve you ads that our system thinks you will object to the least“.
A pill less bitter, is still a bitter pill.

IvyDNS protects you from abuse by advertisers and other miscreants, whether it is theft, exposing you to malware or an invasion of your privacy.

Advertisers know exactly who you are… the data is NOT anonymized

Advertisers know who you are, where you go, when you go there and how much time you spend where you are: Advertisers will be able to upload email lists to target customers and similar audiences with ads on search, Gmail and YouTube.
This shows, yet again, that the claims about the data being anonymized, are false. This capability enables advertisers and those buying advertising time/space from (in this case) Google, to say “here’s an individual I want to show my ads to”(*).

What was that about “we don’t know who you are, you’re just an anonymous number to us“, you say?
When the number is you, uniquely you, then you’re not anonymized, instead, you’ve been given an (additional) alias which makes it easier to be identified, not harder.

IvyDNS prevents you from ever being recorded as one of these (non-)’anonymous numbers’ in the first place. And even if you were recorded in the past, it makes your future footprints melt away before anyone gets a chance to see them.

(*) Interestingly, this also opens up a mechanism for those using advertising networks as delivery mechanisms for malware, to target very specific individuals for infection with their malware.

Advertising networks are delivery mechanisms for malware

The Register published an article on how advertising networks used by major and popular sites are (yet once more) being hijacked by malware peddlers. IvyDNS eliminates this attack vector and keeps you safe when you are online.

It’s just another reason to no longer treat advertising as ‘harmless’ or ‘a minor nuisance’: allowing content from unknown third parties to be downloaded to and executed on your devices is a major security risk that can lead to compromised devices and can include identity theft.

A two-year long, highly sophisticated malvertising campaign infected visitors to some of the most popular news sites in the UK, Australia, and Canada including Channel 9, Sky News, and MSN.

Readers of those news sites, just a portion of all affected (since it also affected eBay’s UK portal), were infected with modular trojans capable of harvesting account and email credentials, stealing keystrokes, capturing web cam footage, and opening backdoors.

The news sites are not at direct fault as they displayed the advertising; the ad networks and the underlying structure of high-pace and low-profit margins is what lets malvertising get its huge impact.

Read the full article over here.

Web-of-Trust add-on caught selling out its users

The Web-of-Trust (WoT) add-on for Firefox and/or Chrome has been removed from the add-on repositories for Firefox and Chrome. Some excellent sleuthing(*) by the Norddeutscher Rundfunk revealed that the WoT add-on was selling data which can uniquely identify its users to other parties, without ever asking for consent for this, let alone in a clear and proper way.
On top of this, WoT made claims about anonymizing the data but, as is almost always the case, the data was either not anonymized at all or the anonymization is useless and individual users can be deduced from the data.
If the article is correct, then it appears that the latter is the case, that these claims appear to be unsubstantiated and grossly misleading, and that WoT is no different from other privacy-invaders.

This is just another example of the kind of limitations that you face when you try to enhance your privacy through browser add-ons or extensions: they see everything you see and it only takes a single, rogue add-on to compromise you, your privacy and your security. And while most of these tools are valuable and useful, you need a more comprehensive tool to secure you, your on-line safety and your privacy.
This is where IvyDNS comes in: it prevents connections to undesirable domains and it does it on a deeper, more fundamental networking level than browser add-ons.
IvyDNS’ Internet Intelligence contains comprehensive information about the purpose of domains and blocks access to those that are undesirable, whether that is because the domain is used in tracking you, serves malware, serves advertising, invades your privacy, etc… IvyDNS is there to protect you.

IvyDNS is also built so that it does not ever receive the kind information from you that WoT is reselling. This is because IvyDNS receives only DNS requests: ‘What is the IP address for domain X‘. It never receives information about which page you are requesting, or even which protocol you will be using to talk to that server. You could be asking for the IP address of a domain because you want to check your e-mail, you want to visit a web page on it, or there’s an app that pulls data from there, etc… IvyDNS does not ever see or receive the purpose of your request (nor requests made to non-IvyDNS servers).

The reason for this is simple! It is none of our business, and it would be wrong to pull ‘stunts’ as described in the linked articles! We built IvyDNS with these considerations in mind. It offers deep protection from top to bottom and it keeps you secure, undisturbed and as private as it can, while you are on-line!

You can read the original article on NDR.de (in German) about WoT selling out its users, and read about it over at The Register.

You can learn more about IvyDNS here or sign up and enjoy a faster, more secure, ad-free and undisturbed internet.

Surveillance is creepy

A person in an unmarked car following your every move and watching you 24/7 is considered creepy or requires a warrant, but replace this with an ever-expanding army of all-seeing machines who pry into everything you do on-line and everyone thinks that this is just dandy.

These all-seeing machines are obviously the tracking pixels, scripts, the browser-fingerprinting, the telemetry-collection, the displayed adverts, and whichever other mechanism or euphemisms used for surveillance, on pretty much every website you use.
We, at Fundamental Software, vehemently reject the idea that this type of surveillance is acceptable and we provide ways to fight back!

IvyDNS is an on-line service that respects your privacy. It makes it significantly harder for these third parties to track you on-line.

2016-SEPT-16 – 04:00 UTC to 06:00 UTC

IvyDNS will undergo maintenance starting on Friday, September 16th, 2016 starting at 04:00 UTC. The service window will extend over 2 hours at most. While we expect no actual downtime during this maintenance window, you will likely experience a temporary increase in latency for the duration of the maintenance and will fall back, as designed & intended, to your secondary server.

In the event that IvyDNS does not respond to your requests at all, wait a couple of seconds and re-run the updateIvyDNS script before retrying. Verify that the script’s log contains ‘OK’.