Wednesday, February 22, 2012

So long, Scroogle...

Well, It looks like it's finally happened. The site that many people rely on for anonymous web searching, Scroogle has been taken offline. While I have been wondering about Scroogle's future for sometime due to Google intermittently blocking the Scroogle Scraper servers.

According to Scroogle's founder, Daniel Brandt, the site was a constant target of around-the-clock Denial of Service attacks and as a result it, along with Mr. Brandt's other domains, were simply just taken permanently offline.

What was Scroogle?, not to be confused with, a pornography site, was a web service developed by Daniel Brandt. It was a Google scraper that allowed people to search Google anonymously. It essentially acted as a proxy for Google searches, so your IP address, any search terms used and other search information that is usually recorded by Google about your searches was anonymized through the system.
Scroogle also deleted all of their logs and cookies on their servers within 48 hours in order to provide better privacy for it's users.

What's wrong with Google?
Nothing per se, if you know what you are getting into. Google places a cookie to track a person's search history, on each registered user's computer. While this is not something new, this cookie is good for 18 months and is renewed whenever a Google service, such as Gmail is used.

Google also aggregates search data by IP address, storing its data for 9 months. This stored search data is a collective cornucopia of information which could be used to assist in targeting advertising as well as other marking purposes. While on the surface, this type of activity does not seem to be malicious, the potential power of this type of aggregate data to profile individuals is concerning to privacy advocates, who fear that it may be used by law enforcement, government agencies, or other entities for nefarious purposes.
Other reasons that people elected not to use Google included marketing, tourism and legal professionals who needed to have unbiased search results appear when performing research for their services.

What are alternatives?

Since Scroogle is permanently offline, there exist other search alternatives to keep your privacy intact. A few of these are below:

Duck, Duck, Go
Google Encrypted Search

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Judge Oders Defendant To Decrypt Laptop

I recently read an interesting article that was posted on CNN's site. The article tells of a story from Wired in which a judge in Colorado ordered a woman to decrypt her laptop hard drive after the computer was seized.

The judge concluded that "the Fifth Amendment is not implicated by requiring production of the unencrypted contents of the Toshiba Satellite M305 laptop computer,"  and ordered the drive decrypted so that  prosecutors can use the files against her in a criminal case.

The EFF is involved in the matter and in trying to protect the defendant stating that the order violates the Constitution and would make the defendant incriminate herself.

This gives great pause for thought for privacy advocates. At what point does an individuals rights cease? What precedent would this action then set?