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May you have a happy, successful and more private year!

Browser, VPN, privacy, security, internet browsing, internet security, digital identity

We should all be aware by now that 2018 was a watershed year for digital privacy and data protection, marked by one Facebook or Google scandal after another.

Leading with Facebook Cambridge Analytica fiasco, Mark Zuckerberg’s congressional testimony, a massive hack, and revelations of corporate smear campaigns were only the tip of the iceberg. (Refer also to: A bug may have exposed the unposted Facebook photos of millions ; Facebook is using your two-factor-authentication phone number to target ads ; Facebook has been collecting call history and SMS data from Android usersUK Parliament publishes Facebook secret documents showing ‘whitelisting’ firms in return for access to data)

The Facebook privacy issues revealed last year should not overshadow other important revelations like: Strava’s heat map exposing military locations; The giant Marriott hack or Google’s already obsolete Google+ bug that may have exposed private data from millions to its third-party apps;

It’s important to acknowledge the above and understand that some tech companies, and unfortunately some of the most trusted ones, not only harvest gazillions of users’ data but also employ flawed systems to use, share and profit from it. The zenith of privacy invasion played out in a report that alleged both Facebook and Google partnered with banks and bought financial data in secret, trying to get access to yet another sensitive category of private user information.

The aforementioned tech companies, and many other less well known, put their profits before your privacy, and actually built business models that demanded it. In addition, there is nothing FREE and we the users are often the product being monetized.  By itself there is nothing wrong with a consumer getting a free service and enabling profit for the service provider through some element of behavior and/or identity, as long as the profiting entity makes disclosures around business practice, doesn’t abuse the user’s trust by violating their own terms, and has no hidden tradeoffs that a user only finds out about after the fact.

So, what is next for 2019? It could continue with other giants like Microsoft, Amazon or Apple, especially with the latest digital assistant trend, but at this point it would only be speculation.

In any case, we should keep protecting our devices and be aware of which free or paid services we use. Put simply, we must be aware of and take action around our own digital identity.

To that end, great things happened as well, in the context of privacy, during 2018. Moreover, we salute and support initiatives like Europe’s GDPR law, trying to get back more privacy for consumers, but currently far from perfect in practice. It is still worth supporting and following how it will succeed in combating the most sophisticated tracking methods, like browser fingerprinting. Besides the European Union, many publications and organizations, such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation, started drawing attention to the ways Google, who owns the most used browser and largest tracking network in the world, uses its power to protect its own interests rather than protecting its users.

 

The good and the bad around privacy, in 2018, further validated the need for privacy awareness and tools, therefore fueling our conviction around UR Browser, including the addition of more simple-to-use privacy features.

Chrome further strengthens its dominance.
When shall we have
a countervailing power?

The January 2018 figures compiled by Net Applications and relayed by Computer World show us that Internet Explorer, Edge (Microsoft) and FireFox (Mozilla) have again lost ground against the now hegemonic Google browser: Chrome. Continue reading

Learn all about the Chrome ad-blocking feature.

Google has just confirmed the launch of the ad-blocking feature on Chrome, which was announced more than a year ago. What will be the specific scope of this ad-blocking function? We shall tell you everything in this article. Continue reading

The growth hack of Microsoft Edge in its fight against Google Chrome.

Google is the undisputed leader in the browser market. Chrome indeed brings together 67.5% of users on computer (desktop / laptop).
You may have forgotten it but there was a time when Internet Explorer, Microsoft’s historical browser, was the market leader. Continue reading

Tim Berners Lee wants to restore the web to its former glory.

tim berners lee web

Tim Berners Lee has repeatedly expressed his disappointment regarding the worldwide web’s evolution, segmented in silos and proprietary platforms, at odds with the philosophy of his pioneers. Continue reading

The Privacy Paradox

facebook likes group of people liking

In recent years, internet users are increasingly concerned about their online privacy. Ad blocker and VPN services have flourished, as users religiously check remove their cookies and check their spyware detectors. However, there exists a “privacy paradox.” Although people seem to be concerned about their privacy, their actions don’t necessarily reflect their worries.

A recent meta-analysis of 166 studies, including 75,269 participants, explored this paradox. Those who are concerned about their privacy are more inclined to regularly delete cookies, use strong passwords and generally take precautions when browsing.

However, when it comes to social media, these same users disregard these worries, even when they know that their data could be against them. Many of these users behave carelessly online, allowing much of their data to be made public. Privacy concerns appear to go out the window with social media, partly due to the fact that social media appeals to a basic human need: social interaction.

“Because people’s concerns about privacy don’t seem to translate into behaviors to protect privacy, it is quite easy to envision a future in which everything we do online becomes part of our public reputation.”

Read more on Harvard Business Review.

EU Not Confident that US Will Uphold Privacy Shield

US-EU flags merge

The Privacy Shield may be in limbo according the EU officials. With the FCC recently rolling back internet privacy rules, the EU is concerned about the future of the US-EU Privacy Shield.

The European Parliament voted on a resolution last week that would ask the European Commission (the executive branch of the EU) to ensure that Europeans’ data is being protected, as agreed upon in the US-EU Privacy Shield.

The Privacy Shield came into effect in July 2016, after the previous Safe Harbor agreement was declared invalid by European courts in 2015. Less than a year into it, the Privacy Shield is on the rocks—the object of two lawsuits, and to date, lacking an ombudsman to oversee complaints.

Read more on The Daily Dot.

 

UR is a secure web browser based in the European Union. Our goal? Protecting your data. Find out more about privacy in UR.

 

Inventor of WWW Shares His Worries

Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the WWW

Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the WWW

Over 28 years ago, Sir Tim Berners-Lee submitted his original proposal for the world wide web. He envisioned it as an open platform that would allow people all over the world to share information, access opportunities and collaborate.

Berners-Lee outlines his three serious challenges he believes “…we must tackle in order for the web to fulfill its true potential as a tool which serves all of humanity.”

1. Loss of control

Companies and governments are going to far by increasingly watching our every move online, and passing extreme laws that invade our privacy rights. As our data is then held in proprietary silos that we can’t access, we lose out on the benefits we could realize if we had direct control over this data, and chose when and with whom to share it.

2. Information spreads

Nowadays, social media sites and search engines are information lifelines. In fact, these sites make more money when we click on the links they show us, so they choose what to show us based on algorithms which learn from our personal data that they are constantly accumulating. The outcome is usually misinformation, or ‘fake news’, which is surprising, shocking, or designed to appeal to our tendencies.

3. Online political advertising

Democracy is being questioned with online political advertising. The fact that most people get their information from just a few platforms and the increasing sophistication of algorithms drawing upon rich pools of personal data, means that political campaigns are now building individual adverts targeted directly at users.

 

Read the in-depth essay from Berners-Lee on the World Wide Web Foundation

UR prides itself giving people back the control over their online privacy.  Learn more about UR’s privacy features.

Trump Repeals Privacy Protections

The Trump administration gets rid of privacy protections for internet users.

The Obama-era is over and the future of privacy is getting even murkier. This past Monday, President Trump signed a repeal of online privacy protections established by the Federal Communications Commission (FFC) under the Obama Administration.

Internet providers now have a much larger scope than consumers with the way they share or sell customers’ browsing history for advertising purposes. This data stream is a sacred vessel for advertisers because it allows them to build much richer profiles on consumers so that they can better target ads.

Read more here The Verge

What Do Employers Do With Your Data?

people working

Corporations can now compile and analyze unprecedented volumes of unstructured data created by humans, such as the text contained in company documents, email, instant messaging, and social media. This poses the question one of the greatest ethical challenges of our time: how we use or abuse digital technologies and the data they generate.

What happens to this data, and can it be used against us?

Read more at the Harvard Business Review

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