Friday 28 January 2011

Privacy May Guide Search Engines Success In Future

The privacy issues are assuming importance these days but would they guide the success or failure of technology products like search engines. Google is undoubtedly the best search engine world wide. However, it has its own share of privacy and anonymity problems.

While Google and Yahoo does not take use of privacy and anonymity tools like the onion router (TOR) very positively, Bing on the other hand seems to be performing reasonably well with TOR.

This race of providing better, private and more secure web services to users has reached a new level. Browsers like Firefox, Chrome, Internet Explorer (IE), etc are taking active steps to ensure that users’ information is not leaked to advertisers who target them with search specific advertisements.

A digital profiling is happening presently on the basis of information sent through HTTP referrers. By checking the referrer, the new webpage can see where the request originated. By using privacy tools like TOR, one can prevent this digital profiling.

The recently launched search engine DuckDuckGo (DDG) claims that it does not collect personal information of its users. This is a great improvement over existing search engines that do collect users’ information. In fact, DDG has many fantastic privacy features that are worth exploring. The best seems to be positive support for TOR for doing anonymous web searches.

If privacy is the main criteria for searches, DDG is a better option than existing search engines. However, if a wide variety of results is the requirement, Google would still dominate the field.

Switch To Duckduckgo For Privacy And Anonymity

While it is still premature to predict whether privacy or efficiency would be the decisive factor for search engines, but one thing is for sure. DuckDuckGo (DDG) is going to stay. Its main strength over other search engines like Google and Yahoo is that it is privacy oriented and is a great combination with the onion routing (TOR) software.

While Google and Yahoo do not provide user friendly results for their services if TOR is used, Bing is an exception. Bing does not show any error like Yahoo or ask for capacha verification like Google while using TOR.

However, when it comes to DDG, not even Bing can match it. This is because of the unique and anonymity features of DDG. If you use DDG through TOR using latest version of Firefox, your privacy is assured to a great extent. Google, Yahoo and Bing fail on this front.

However, some additional steps must be taken by users to get a stronger anonymity. They must manage their plugins and addons and must ensure that their information is not leaked by them. Take special care of java and java scripts through NoScript along with a Firefox browser.

Use DDG and have a safe, secure and private browsing experience.

Google Bots Are Deleting Genuine Blogs As Splogs

Google must consider the question whether use of privacy and cyber security safeguards like Tor software is in itself sufficient ground to remove a blog from Google’s database? Does the mere use of Tor violates the terms and conditions of Google?

Google has been struggling to deal with offensive blogs that are spoiling this otherwise genuine and wonderful platform. Since the numbers of offending blogs are numerous it is not possible to manually do this exercise.

Google has to essentially use automated bots to do this cleansing job for it. However, Google bots need an urgent tweaking as they are giving more and more false positive. Many genuine blogs have been blocked/removed as they were considered to be spam blogs.

Not all these removed blogs are spam blogs rather a majority of them are genuine blogs with original contents and no objectionable contents. While I would not like to comment upon the spam detection and its removal procedure, I would like to discuss a very serious and civil liberty issue here. The matter pertains to protecting privacy of users of Google that it is not only morally required to protect but also required under the provisions of various national and international laws and norms.

The crucial question is whether Google is against use of Privacy safeguards like Tor software? Tor is free software and an open network that helps you defend against a form of network surveillance that threatens personal freedom and privacy, confidential business activities and relationships, and state security known as traffic analysis.

It seems Google consider the Tor traffic as malicious activities and removes any blog that uses the same from its database. The complete details of the same are available at its Help Forum.

At the same time, Google also blocked access to the Google account itself in this case so no requests for review can be made from it. In fact, there is no way a person can log in to this account.

While browsers like Chrome, Firefox and IE are working in the direction of ensuring more privacy to the users, Google bots are working in the opposite direction. The Federal Trade Commission's has recently called for a simple mechanism empowering consumers to universally stop advertising networks from tailing them around the Web.

If a person uses Tor these advertisers cannot bother him with privacy violating advertisements based on personal profiling. Tor automatically filters these advertisements and many cyber security threats.

In the past Google has not taken privacy issues very seriously. This has, to a larger extent, eroded its motto known as do not be evil. Of course Google has a right to take violations like spam very seriously, but it needs to reformulate its policies and practices regarding empowering its users with more privacy.

Wednesday 26 January 2011

Cyber Law Of India Must Be Repealed

Technology related laws are the need of hour these days. The more technology has become a part of our daily lives the greater is a need to regulate it use in a legal manner. Deviance from lawful use of technology often results in cyber crimes.

In India cyber crimes are increasing at an alarming rate. However, the laws required to tackle the same are missing in India. For instance, the information technology act, 2000 (IT Act, 2000) is the sole cyber law of India.

It was amended by information technology act, 2008 (IT Act, 2008). This amendment also made almost all the cyber crimes bailable, giving enough incentives to commit cyber crimes in India without any fear of law or punishment.

Recently, telecom minister Mr. Kapil Sibal showed his intentions to frame rules under the IT Act, 2000. What is not understandable is why he is lingering with this weak and ineffective law? Why cannot he start an exercise of repealing the present cyber law and enacting comprehensive laws regarding cyber crimes, cyber security, e-governance, e-commerce, etc?

The present approach and attitude of Mr. Sibal is piecemeal in nature that can never give an enduring and strong solution against growing cyber crimes in India. It is high time for him to repeal the present cyber law of India and come up with a good one.