Anonymous hacks U.S. government websites with anti-ACTA messages

Summary: Anonymous has defaced a number of U.S. trade-related websites, including the FTC, seemingly in protest over the country’s signing to the controversial ACTA agreement.
Hacking collective Anonymous took down a number of U.S. government websites early this morning in continuing protests over ACTA, the controversial anti-counterfeiting trade agreement.
Websites hacked included, and the FTC’s website.
Strongly worded and violent language were used, and a video was posted on each site. The attacks were simultaneously carried out across the different sites. Some of the text read:
“If ACTA is signed by all participating negotiating countries, you can rest assured that Antisec will bring a f**ing mega-uber-awesome war that rain torrential hellfire down on all enemies of free speech, privacy and internet freedom. We will systematically knock all evil corporations and governments off of our internet.”
The text on the page referred back to AntiSec, or “Anti-Security”, which was a movement spurred on hacking group LulzSec before it disbanded after 50 days of hacks and data dumps.
A number of Twitter accounts associated with Anonymous appeared to confirm the group’s involvement with the attacks on the websites, which have now been taken offline.
ACTA, which stands for the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, not only focuses on intellectual property and patents, but copyright theft and illegal file-sharing online. It was negotiated largely in secret, and contained measures that could be ‘SOPA-like’, and remove entire swathes from the Web.
It has since been watered down heavily, but faces continued opposition by online rights groups and privacy advocates.
ACTA has since been rejected by a number of European countries, including the Netherlands and Germany. The member of the European Parliament responsible for investigating the agreement resigned in protest. The European Parliament will vote on the agreement in June.

Google is now the top public DNS provider in the world

When Google Public DNS launched in late 2009, it was only ever supposed to be an experiment. But yesterday, Google announced that it’s now the most popular public DNS in the world, handling over 70 billion requests per day.
To use Google engineer Jeremy K. Chen’s own simile, as expressed in the official blog entry, DNS - short for Domain Name System - is like the Internet’s phone book. When you put a URL into the browser, the DNS service looks it up and matches it to an IP address. Google Public DNS aims to be the most complete, fastest, and most secure listing of its kind out there for users all over the world.
In fact, Chen writes that 70 percent of Google Public DNS traffic comes from outside the US, thanks to existing nodes in North and South America, bolstered support in Europe, and all-new nodes for regions like Japan, Australia, India and Nigeria.
Of course, Google critics are wondering what good could come of the search giant having access to even more user data - in this case, a log of every single website that Google Public DNS visitors go to, all day, every day.
Now, Google says that it “never blocks, filters, or redirects users, unlike some open resolvers and ISPs,” but, well, here’s InformationWeek’s rock-solid summary of its privacy policy:

Google also maintains a separate privacy policy for Google Public DNS. The company says it maintains two sets of server logs related to the service: temporary and permanent. The temporary logs contain user IP addresses and those are deleted in 24 to 48 hours (barring a court order to the contrary). The permanent logs, which contain city-level location data but nothing personally identifiable, are retained for at least two weeks. A small random sample taken from the permanent logs is kept indefinitely.

It’s still unclear if Google Public DNS’ privacy policy will be streamlined into Google’s streamlined, unified document that’s going live on March 1st, but regardless, it seems extremely likely that Google will stick to its guns as far as not sharing that data with anyone else. And on a slight tangent, I highly doubt that we’ll see Google Public DNS added to that unified privacy policy, given the comparatively unique legal precautions it’s already caused Google to take.

In the final analysis, the measure of how okay you should be with Google Public DNS and its privacy implications depends on whether or not you feel like Google is, in fact, evil. In the meanwhile, Google’s holding the line that it protects user privacy at all costs.

Facebook Parenting: For the troubled teen.

Remember the mother who beat her son for having a Facebook account? Well, this father shoots multiple bullets into his daughter’s laptop (see minute 7:15) because of her behavior on Facebook. At the time of writing, this video has over 14 million views on YouTube, some 60,000 Likes on Facebook, and over 25,000 Shares on Facebook.

Facebook: What happens to active users when jobs come back?

Are Facebook fortunes tied to whether Americans are working? That question is worth asking given and improved jobs picture and mixed signals about what constitutes an active user on the social network.
Last week, the Labor Department reported that 243,000 Americans were added to the payrolls in January. That sum was about 100,000 more than expected. Facebook’s initial public offering documents landed a few days earlier than the jobs report and cited 845 million monthly active users. Do these figures have something to do with each other? Possibly.
Barron’s Randall Forsyth made the case over the weekend:
It can’t be a coincidence that its roster of users swelled to over 800 million worldwide during the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, as joblessness swelled and with it, free time to spend on Facebook. And in the U.S., jobs are growing in manufacturing and construction, where few people sit in front of PCs, while shrinking in information, finance and government, where most everybody does.
So, as Facebook users go back to work, they will have less time to update their pages and peer at those of others. And fewer office jobs also means less time goofing off at work looking at Facebook (which is broken up by watching videos on You Tube.) And folks who are employed and have a few bucks in their pockets might actually get out and have what used to be called a social life, as opposed to social networking.
Simplistic argument? Perhaps. But I’d argue that Forsyth’s quips about Facebook may have some truth in them. We already know that LinkedIn is countercyclical. The professional networking site gains in a downturn as folks look for jobs. Is Facebook any different?
We all know someone who may be unemployed and spending an inordinate amount of time on Facebook when they probably should be on LinkedIn. Free time in many cases means more Facebook.

10 extremely awesome iPad tips and tricks

Introduction and getting started

Introduction and getting started

Think you know all there is to know about your iPad? Think again! In this gallery, I will show you some little-known tricks and tips that will get you even more excited about using your iPad. Show these tricks off to friends and family with iPads and leave them astounded in the wake of your awesomeness!
Before we get started, there are a couple of things you need to know:
1: These tricks will only work with iPads that are running iOS 5. If yours isn't, then just know that it's free and easy to install; however, you will need to back up your device beforehand. Simply plug your iPad up to your Mac/PC, run iTunes, then follow the instructions provided!
2: The reason you need iOS 5 is because much of what I cover is only capable in iOS 5. If you have iOS 5 installed (or when you do install it), you need to go ahead and enable multitasking gestures. To do this, simply tap the Settings app, then General, then make sure Multitasking Gestures is set to ON (as pictured above). If it's not, swipe it on! This will allow you to do things like swipe up with four fingers to reveal a multitasking bar, etc. More on that as you proceed through the gallery.
And with that said, let's get started!

Is it time for Microsoft to relinquish the Evil Empire crown to Google?

Summary: Microsoft is taking its anti-Google campaign a step further with newpaper ads aimed at highlighting controversial changes in Google’s privacy policy.
There’s more than one way to grow market share, as the Softies know. Best products or first-to-market products don’t always win. Sometimes, a product can come to dominate largely because of the missteps of a competitor.
Not so long ago, Microsoft’s policy was to sit back and wait for users to grow disenchanted with the competition and ultimately (hopefully) gravitate toward the Microsoft alternative. (Exhibit A: Xbox vs. Sony PlayStation.) But these days, Microsoft isn’t leaving those defections up to chance. Instead, company officials have been increasingly willing to go public — via Twitter, Facebook, blog posts and ads — to fight back against the competition.
Google is one of Microsoft’s favorite punching bags right now, for many understandable reasons. This week, Microsoft took its Google-compete campaign a step further by taking out ads in three major national newspapers to help continue to fuel the anti-Google furor over privacy. (I’m not sure the readers of print newspapers (even big ones) are really the folks Microsoft has to convince here, but that’s just an aside.)
Microsoft doesn’t really need to stoke the fires much here. Even the U.S. Congress is demanding Google provide answers about its no-opt-out privacy policy taking effect March 1. And Google has been forced to explain and re-explain it (and probably before it’s over, re-explain it again).
But what Redmond is doing this time around is very non-Microsoft-like: They’re actively trying to capitalize on its competitor’s problems in a public way — and to boost the market share of their own alternatives — Hotmail, Bing, Office 365 and Internet Explorer — as a side benefit.
I like seeing Microsoft get more publicly aggressive. I can’t tell you how frustrating it’s been as someone reporting on Microsoft to call company officials for comment on Google’s or Apple’s or Salesforce’s or Oracle’s claims about Microsoft’s products or strategies and to be told “no comment” — even when it was obvious the competitors weren’t telling the truth, the whole truth or even the partial truth.
That said, when I first heard about it, Microsoft’s newest anti-Google campaign struck me as the pot calling the kettle black. Sure, Microsoft can rail about Google tailoring users’ search results based on information it collects about them, but isn’t Microsoft collecting the same kind of information about its users, in the name of providing more personalized, customized user experiences for users (and, of course, advertisers)?  Hey, Microsoft didn’t earn the “Evil Empire” nickname for its selfless customer love…
Frank Shaw, Corporate Vice Presient of Corporate Communications for Microsoft, told me there are differences.
“There is a difference between policy and practice. We don’t read customers mail. We don’t read customer documents. We don’t triangulate youtube views and searches. We don’t use the content of your Hotmail to target ads in Bing,” Shaw said.
Maybe it’s time for the passing of the Evil Empire crown to a new king? All hail the G-mail Man?

Google's new privacy policy: Washington's misguided interrogation

Summary: Even though the new policy doesn’t change how Google operates, lawmakers are using it as a springboard into an inquiry over user privacy.
I have to admit that I didn’t really get too excited when I heard last week that Google wasupdating its privacy policy. After all, companies do that kind of stuff all the time - credit card companies send notices in the mail all the time to inform their customers that new policies will soon go into effect while Internet companies produce a pop-up window and force users to click on agree or terminate the company-customer relationship.
Think about it: none of these companies ask their customers if the changes are OK or if they’d like to opt-out of certain parts of it. And frankly, with all of the legal blah blah blah that bog down these policies, no one is really going to read any of it anyway. Right? I mean, let’s be honest. Who here is really taking the time to read through all of the terms and policies before signing up for a new service, downloading an app or installing an update?
So along comes Google, consolidating something like 60 different privacy policies - many of which have overlapping terms and conditions - into one master policy, something that lays it all out in terms of how Google properties are connected, the type of data that’s collected, how and why that data is shared among the different properties, how users can manage their personal private settings or opt-out of certain features and how some services don’t even require a Google account to use.
That’s a lot of information - and it’s written without all of the legal jargon. It’s written so that anyone can understand it. And, yet, in Washington, lawmakers continue to prove that when it comes to technology, they still don’t get it.
Over the past few days, there’s been a back-and-forth exchange between Google and a bipartisan group of lawmakers over the policy change, sparked by concern that Google is making these changes so that it can sell better-targeted ads. Gasp! Imagine the nerve of Google, wanting to expose their users to advertising for stuff they might actually care about. How dare Google try to offer enhanced and customized services for their users? Shame on Google for doing all of this as a way to bring in more revenue and deliver a better rate of return for its shareholders.
And certainly Washington can’t be at all happy with Google for doing what it hasn’t been able to do - consolidate a complex set of rules, policies, terms and conditions from a cumbersome and inefficient set of documents into something that’s manageable, easy to follow and definitely more efficient. Perhaps lawmakers might want to tap Google for some advice when it comes time to revamp the tax code. Just sayin’…
But I digress. The bigger point I’m trying to make is that the Washington lawmakers are showing their lack of business understanding by launching an email interrogation over something like a change to a privacy policy. The policies themselves didn’t really change - and Google has been beyond clear about that. Google isn’t suddenly collecting a new set of data or now starting to hand out a user’s personal information to spammers. Sharing of information across Google properties has already been happening - and frankly, it’s made my user experience that much better.
Who cares if Google has visions of how they can use that information in more ways to create new services or charge more for advertising. If Google suddenly decides to start using the information for some new service, one that makes users squeamish about their privacy, then users can revolt by not using the service. Google will get the hint pretty quickly. Remember Buzz?
Here’s the bigger point: If Washington has a problem with the way Google is collecting, using and sharing data, then Washington should launch an investigation of Google’s business practices and make a determination about whether or not government intervention is necessary. Instead, in an election year, some lawmakers are raising red flags over a change to the privacy policy and questioning - loud enough for their constituents to hear - why Google doesn’t let people opt-out of the changes.
That’s just wrong - especially since Google (and any other online service, for that matter) has the ultimate opt-out feature. Those who don’t like how Google does business don’t have to use Google’s products or services. Microsoft continues to offer its Bing search engine as an alternative to Google, though it’s worth noting that Google search, like YouTube, doesn’t require a Google account. Yahoo has mail, maps and a calendar. And Android certainly isn’t the only smartphone OS on the market.
At the end of the day: Washington lawmakers are trying to turn a non-issue into a bigger deal than it should be. Here’s an idea: If Washington wants to start questioning an industry that regularly makes changes to its privacy policies, then start with the banks. Based on what’s been happening with home foreclosures and Occupy protests, it’s probably safe for lawmakers to assume that their constituents are more concerned about how the banks continue to impact our lives and less bothered by a change to the privacy policy of a company that wants to connect a YouTube account with a user’s search history so it can offer a more customized experience.


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