Tech Friday


  • Google Engineer says Google is not politically neutral:
    • The Google "filter bubble" is the manipulation of your search results based on your personal data and possible algorithmic bias
    • This is accomplished in part by using the massive amounts of information that Google has collected on you, and supposedly is geared towards providing information you are most likely to be interested in
    • Duck Duck Go ran a study in 2012 demonstrating that Google's filter bubble may have significantly influenced Presidential election that year by inserting tens of millions more links for Obama than for Romney
    • A Wall Street Journal article inspired by the research said 'A Wall Street Journal examination found that the search engine often customizes the results of people who have recently searched for "Obama"—but not those who have recently searched for "Romney."'
    • You can read the WSJ article here:https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052970203347104578099122530080836
    • Google has been criticized many times in the recent past for exhibiting a liberal bias in search results
    • In 2016 Harvard psychologist Dr. Robert Epstein revealed evidence that Google is manipulating search results related to Hillary Clinton. Read more here:http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2016-09-12/google-bias
    • Matt Lieberman of Sourcefed published a video claiming Google’s autocomplete suggestions were biased in favor of Clinton. The video went viral and was viewed 25 million times on Facebook. Read more here: http://thefederalist.com/2016/06/10/is-google-manipulating-search-results-to-help-hillary-clinton/
    • Online search marketer CanIRank.com found that 50 searches for political terms produced more liberal leaning results than conservative result
    • Recent additional research by Duck Duck Go found that individuals entering identical search terms at the same time got different results:
      • DuckDuckGo: Known as the search engine that doesn't track you. Gaining in popularity for those who want to avoid the all seeing eye of Google:https://duckduckgo.comI recommend Duck Duck Go
      • Most participants saw results unique to them. These discrepancies could not be explained by changes in location, time, by being logged in to Google, or by Google testing algorithm changes to a small subset of users
      • On the first page of search results, Google included links for some participants that it did not include for others, even when logged out and in private browsing mode
      • Results within the news and videos infoboxes also varied significantly. Even though people searched at the same time, people were shown different sources, even after accounting for location
      • Private browsing mode and being logged out of Google offered very little filter bubble protection. These tactics simply do not provide the anonymity most people expect
      • Duck Duck Go concluded "In fact, it's simply not possible to use Google search and avoid its filter bubble."
    • You can get the Duck Duck Go details here:https://spreadprivacy.com/google-filter-bubble-study/
    • Now James O'Keefe's Project Veritas has struck again
    • Senior Google Software Engineer Greg Coppola told Project Veritas he is going public in an attempt to encourage increased transparency amid what he described as an increasingly politically biased atmosphere
    • Coppola said claiming there's no bias in Google's algorithms is "ridiculous"
    • He said the bias is clear to "everyone who supports anything other than the Democrats, anyone who’s pro-Trump or in any way deviates from what CNN and the New York Times are pushing"
    • Coppola said "I’ve been coding since I was ten [years old.] I have a PhD, I have five years’ experience at Google and I just know how algorithms are" 
    • Referring to algorithms, he also said "They don’t write themselves. We write them to do what want them to do."
    • Further, he said "We haven’t had time to absorb the fact that tech might have an agenda"
    • Coppola said "I think for a while we had tech that was politically neutral. Now we have tech that really, first of all is taking sides in a political contest, which I think, you know, anytime you have big corporate power merging with political parties can be dangerous. And I think more generally we have to just decide now that we kind of are seeing tech use its power to manipulate people. It’s a time to decide, you know, do we run the technology, does the technology run us?"
    • Watch the interview here:https://www.projectveritas.com/2019/07/24/current-sr-google-engineer-goes-public-on-camera-tech-is-dangerous-taking-sides/
    • There are Google alternatives:
  • Data Leak Warning for Chrome And Firefox users:
    • Many Chrome and Firefox users, including yours truly, use browser extensions to enhance the functionality of the browser and to make it more useful and secure
    • Researchers have shown that not all extension are safe
    • Researcher Sam Jadalidiscovered eight browser extensions used by roughly 4 million Firefox and Chrome that are harvesting data
    • The extensions in question collect user data by capturing titles and URLs or web addresses every time a user clicked on a page even though the data collection was not explicitly permitted
    • Data collected included sensitive information like medical records and credit card information
    • Dan Goodin wrote in Ars Technica that most of these collected histories were then published by a fee-based service called Nacho Analytics, which uses the tag line "See Anyone’s Analytics Account"
    • Jadali said the "unprecedented data collection" impacts millions of individuals as well as many Fortune 500 corporations
    • He also said that other Chromium based browsers such as Opera could be impacted
    • The bogus extensions include HoverZoom, SpeakIt!, and FairShare Unlock. You can view the full list in Jadali's report here:https://dataspii.com/
    • Both Google and Mozilla (Firefox developer) have indicated that the extension violated their terms of service. They have been removed or disabled and they are no longer available to download
    • Google and Mozilla are reviewing how extensions work and making changes to deal with a rapidly shifting security landscape
    • Mozilla has said "We are aware of the changing security landscape and as such have created a list of Recommended Extensions which are editorially vetted, security-reviewed, and monitored for safety and privacy by Mozilla". View the list here:https://support.mozilla.org/en-US/kb/recommended-extensions-program
    • You can manually remove extensions at any time
    • In Chrome: Enter this in your browser: chrome://extensions
      • Then click "remove" next to the extension to remove
    • In Firefox: Enter this in your browser: about:addons
      • Then click "remove" next to the extension to removes
    • Be very skeptical and cautious when you download ANY software, you must vet it carefully!
    • This is another case of surveillance capitalism run amok
    • If you're not paying with money, you're paying with data. You're the product, not the customer
  • Remove Zombie apps and online Accounts:
    • Many if not most of us have signed up for apps or websites and then forgot about them when the novelty wore off
    • It's easy to build up a plethora of unused accounts, for example free trials that you never followed up on, services you abandoned, etc.
    • These dormant accounts and apps are sometimes referred to as Zombie App or Zombie Accounts
    • Long dormant accounts can threaten your security and privacy and should be deactivated and/or deleted
    • For example, a developer could go rogue, go out of business and sell your data, or be breached by hackers
    • A smaller footprint of data out in the Internet helps to protect you from misuse of your information. Deleting unnecessary accounts will help
    • "When there's a data breach or some other compromise of a system, attackers can grab usernames, passwords, and email addresses, and reuse those credentials to break into other accounts" - Micah Hoffman, principal investigator at Spotlight Infosec
    • Sites that have been given permissions to data such as your calendar or contacts can keep pulling that data for years
    • There are tools and techniques you can use to ferret out these old accounts
    • Here are some things you can do:
      • Start with any apps/accounts that you can remember and get rid of them first
      • Check your browser book marks
      • Search saved logins in your browser and/or your password manager
      • Google your user name
      • Check your Google, Twitter Facebook accounts for connections used for single sign on. It's a very good idea to remove them in any case.
      • Search for old welcome message in your email
      • Check username sites
      • Scan the apps installed on your phone and/or computer
    • You can find instructions for how to delete yourself from many sites here:https://backgroundchecks.org/justdeleteme