Google is secretly tracking what you buy offline using Mastercard cards

Google is secretly tracking what you buy offline using Mastercard cards

Google and Mastercard have a secret deal to track user shopping details offline

A partnership between Google and Mastercard allows the search giant to track offline sales data, says a Bloomberg report who cited four people “with knowledge of the deal”. In other words, Mastercard is basically selling customer data to Google.

“For the past year, select Google advertisers have had access to a potent new tool to track whether the ads they ran online led to a sale at a physical store in the U.S. That insight came thanks in part to a stockpile of Mastercard transactions that Google paid for.

“But most of the two billion Mastercard holders aren’t aware of this behind-the-scenes tracking. That’s because the companies never told the public about the arrangement,” Bloomberg mentions in its report.

The data is used for Google’s Store Sales Measurement tool, which allows the search giant to find a connection between clicks on digital ads and purchases in brick-and-mortar stores. A part of the solution matches clicks with purchases in offline stores, made with debit or credit cards. If there’s a match, Google shares the feedback with the advertisers and show them how their adverts on Google’s network led to purchases in retail locations.

It is important to note that this feature works only if a customer is logged into a Google account and has not switched off the Google Ad Tracking. Also, it works only if the customer makes a purchase within 30 days of the click. Currently, only select retailers can access the data.

“People don’t expect what they buy physically in a store to be linked to what they are buying online,” Christine Bannan, counsel with the advocacy group Electronic Privacy Information Center, told Bloomberg. “There’s just far too much burden that companies place on consumers and not enough responsibility being taken by companies to inform users what they’re doing and what rights they have.”

Although Google has not commented on the partnership with Mastercard, it has commented on the tool used to share the data to help calm fears about privacy.

Before we launched this beta product last year, we built a new, double-blind encryption technology that prevents both Google and our partners from viewing our respective users’ personally identifiable information. We do not have access to any personal information from our partners’ credit and debit cards, nor do we share any personal information with our partners. Google users can opt-out with their Web and App Activity controls, at any time,” a Google spokeswoman explained.

Although Mastercard couldn’t be reached for comment, a spokesperson sent a statement to Slate, which read, in part:

Regarding the [Bloomberg] article you cited, I’d quickly note that the premise of what was reported is false. The way our network operates, we do not know the individual items that a consumer purchases in any shopping card — physical or digital. No individual transactions or personal data is provided. That delivers on the expectation of privacy from both consumers and merchants around the world. In processing a transaction, we see the retailers name and the total amount of the consumer’s purchase, but not specific items.

According to Bloomberg, Google had once claimed that the company has access to “approximately 70 percent” of credit and debit card data in the U.S. However, earlier this year, Google made some tweaks to the settings that allow the user to opt out of ad tracking via its “Web and App Activity” console.

Also Read- Google tracks Android, iPhone users’ location even with location history turned off

read more

5 Best VPNs for torrenting in 2018

Peer to peer file-sharing or torrenting is one of the most accepted ways of sharing files on the internet. By using a BitTorrent protocol, people can download a file available on seeder’s system. It allows users to download media files like music, movie games, etc. If you’re an experienced torrent user probably you know that in order to browse the internet anonymously you will require to have the best VPN.

Since outcomes of copyright contravention are rapidly increasing around the world, everyone is looking for a reliable VPN for torrenting to stay secure and safe online.

Nowadays, media companies are strictly keeping eyes on torrent traffic and collecting the IPS of torrent users. Depending on your location, you may receive a legal notice from your internet service provider on behalf of the copyright holders. So, if you are not using a VPN while torrenting and simply relying on a torrent client, you are at the risk. Your identity can be compromised.

Therefore, it is advisable to choose the best VPN when torrenting. Unfortunately, identifying a good VPN is not a piece of cake as every VPN service claims to be the best. Don’t worry, in this post, we have put together the list of best VPNs for torrenting in 2018 that will ensure your identity will stay private. So let’s take a look at them.

#1 NordVPN

It is among the most promising VPNs that makes a perfect balance between security and performance. They have approximately 4300 servers across the globe and all are well-optimized for unlimited bandwidth and speed.

NordVPN offers 3 pricing models that you may choose as per your requirements and budget.

1 month plan: $11.95 /month
12 months plan: $5.75 /month
24 months plan: $3.29 /month

Seeing the pricing, it would not be wrong to say that the provider comes up really good in terms of pricing. The provider is highly secured as you would not experience issues like DNS leaking.

It uses IPSec VPN protocols for encrypting information and also possess socks 5 proxies. Moreover, unlike other VPNs, it does not convert your data into code but replaces your IP with their own IP. Isn’t it great?

They are also well-compatible with Vuze, BitTorrent, uTorrent, and Skype as well. Very likely, the provider is one of the best VPN for torrenting in 2018. Some of its great features are: unlimited bandwidth, double data encryption and shared IP’s.

#2 ExpressVPN

It is another popular VPN for torrenting. The provider is based in the British Virgin Islands, renowned for offering blazing fast speed. You can even download large files quite easily. Its servers are located at multiple locations across the globe.

Speaking of security, the provider offers a strong encryption for your data and also supports a wide range of VPN protocols. Moreover, it also supports split tunneling feature for both Windows and Mac.

The biggest advantage of choosing ExpressVPN is that it does not keep any records of connection logs and activity logs. Even you can read it clearly on their privacy policy.

The provider has over 2000 servers across 94 countries. Their servers are optimized to offer robust connection allows endless server switches. It means you can connect to a server of your own choice. In order to secure data, ExpressVPN utilizes 256-bit AES encryption.

The other good thing about ExpressVPN is that it offers round-the-clock customer support, so in case you get any issue you can get instant support.

#3 StrongVPN

StrongVPN is headquartered in Texas,  United States and has over 650 servers in 26 countries.

The provider perfectly lives up to its name as it easily manages to bypass restriction from Netflix US  that’s why it is loved by Netflix viewers all around the world. Additionally, it is one of the few providers that support the great firewall of China. People who are more concerned about the privacy will find it a good option.

StrongVPN supports almost all the operating systems such as Mac, Android, Windows even some Wi-Fi routers.

Like all the top-rated VPN services, StrongVPN also uses the advanced encryption standard i.e. 256 bit and IKEV2/IPsec.

#4 ProtonVPN

ProtonVPN is being operated by a Swiss company called ProtonVPN AG. Needless to say, Switzerland has the world’s strongest privacy laws so you don’t need to worry about privacy offered by the provider. Moreover, the provider has strict no logging policy, which means your activities will not be recorded.

At present, the provider is running more than 200 servers in more than 28 locations. They have more than 3 million users all around the globe.

ProtonVPN offers a secure core architecture that is capable to prevent surveillance and infiltration by hackers. Speaking of pricing, they are running 4 plans. Their pricing starts at as low as $4/mo and goes up to $24 for a month. With their premium most plan called ‘Visionary’, you can connect up to 10 devices on a single account simultaneously.

#5 Private Internet Access

If you’re looking for a cheap yet powerful VPN solution, Private Internet Access can be a good option for you. This ready to go virtual private network supports multiple VPN technologies, including SOCKs5, PPTP, and L2TP/IPsec.

Right now, it is running 3 plans. Their basic plan costs $2.91 for a month while for premium plan you will have to pay the monthly bill of $6.95.

The provider lets you connect up to 5 devices at the same time. Like another VPNs service, PIA (Private Internet Access) employs AES-256 bit encryption. However, one thing that may disappoint is that they don’t unblock Netflix.

Wrapping Up

Since media companies are keeping a keen watch on torrent traffic, peer to peer file sharing will be cat and mouse game this year. Choosing one of the above-mentioned VPNs for torrenting can help you stay safe, secure and private.

read more

Pornhub launches its own free VPN with unlimited bandwidth

Pornhub launches its own free VPN with unlimited bandwidth

Meet ‘VPNhub’, Pornhub’s own virtual private network app

Pornhub, the most popular adult video website, has launched its own virtual private network “VPNhub” to help visitors safeguard their browsing privacy online and prevent their internet activities from leaking to untrusted Wi-Fi networks.

Dubbed as “VPNhub”, the data sent over this VPN service is encrypted. According to VPNhub’s website, it tells potential customers that it’s “free and unlimited,” and it offers “fast speeds” and “online freedom.” VPNhub is independent of the site, Pornhub and you don’t need to register as a member of Pornhub to use VPNhub.

“Today, the Internet is rife with hackers, who are growing in number and sophistication, compromising people’s sensitive data. While browsing in incognito may keep users’ browsing history secret, truth is they’re still susceptible to prying eyes, especially when browsing on unsecured public Wi-Fi networks. Here at Pornhub, with 90 million visitors a day, the vast majority of whom are using devices on the go, it’s especially important that we continue to ensure the privacy of our users and maintain their confidentiality. With the launch of VPNhub, users will have access to the world’s fastest VPN, with over 1000 servers in 15+ countries from which to choose. Now, whether they are perusing the Internet while traveling or from an untrusted network, they can do so without worry,” Pornhub Vice President Cory Price said in a statement.

For the uninitiated, VPN, or Virtual Private Network, can encrypt your internet traffic over your broadband provider. It not only allows access to geoblocked content by hiding your real IP addresses but also provides added protection on public Wi-Fi and acts as a frontline defense against any hacks, attacks or breaches online.

While the VPNhub promises never to store, collect, sell, or share your personal information to others, but it can still share “aggregate or non-personally identifiable information with non-affiliated third parties for advertising, marketing or research purposes” under the heading, “How We Use Your Information” in its privacy policy.

The VPNhub app is free to download for mobile users (both iOS and Android). However, desktop users (MacOS and Windows) need to purchase a premium membership.

For those looking to upgrade their free account can do so by opting for premium subscription at $12.99/month (or $90 for annual subscription), which removes the ads, provides faster connection speeds, and allows you to select the countries you want to connect to. However, even free members have access to unlimited bandwidth.

A seven-day trial version is also available for free in countries like the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Brazil, Japan and Singapore. VPNhub is available globally, except for Myanmar, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria due to the ban imposed by the U.S. government. Moreover, countries including Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt, and China, might block the service.

For more information on VPNhub, and to view the promotional videos, visit

read more

Online Privacy: Free or Paid?

Online Privacy: Free or Paid?

Internet privacy is an issue that has gained significant traction over the years. Cybercriminals have increasing control over the hacked accounts of people on the net, including usage statistics, search queries, biographic data, perhaps even access to your WebCam and sensitive files.

There are many ways to mitigate security concerns, including antivirus software, secure socket layer technology, firewalls, anonymous browsing, and virtual private networks (VPNs). Unfortunately, security features come at a premium. We may enjoy freebies such as IT support services, free Wi-Fi, and web hosting, but the quality of the service is often compromised, and security is not ironclad.

As far as online privacy goes, there are advantages and disadvantages to free VPN services. Straight off the bat, it should be clear that free Virtual Private Networks typically provide PPTP virtual private network service. This is an unsecure format for browsing the web, since the paid providers are the only ones offering services like L2TP/IPSEC, PPTP SSTP, OpenVPN and SSH. These VPN protocols are the only way to secure your Internet connectivity. Regarding free VPNs or paid VPNs go, the better option with VPN protocols is the paid service.

What About Connection Issues?

A major issue with virtual private networks is connectivity. Connectivity describes the continuous connection to the VPN server. The fewer the number of interruptions, the better the overall quality of the service. Bandwidth is but one of many reasons why VPN connectivity may be interrupted. Too many users will place undue stress on a VPN server, resulting in poorly performing services.

Since a paid VPN service limits the number of users to those who are paying for it, it can continually upgrade its servers and maintain premium-quality bandwidth to support uninterrupted connectivity. In terms of customer support, the greater the number of users, the greater the need for support services.

Free VPNs simply cannot keep up with the customer support demands placed on the company. Paid VPN services offer a personalized contract between the company and each individual user. Customer support and related operations are significantly better with a paid VPN.

Speed Matters

Connection speed is another issue that needs to be factored into the equation. Unfortunately, many people use free VPNs. This means that the networks are overloaded. Bandwidth becomes an issue to consider. When too many people are using a service that is freely available, the costs of providing Internet bandwidth rise. VPN servers supporting a huge user base cannot effectively operate for free – meaning that the integrity of the VPN connection speed will be undermined.

When hundreds, or thousands of clients are using a free VPN, the demands on the VPN server and the bandwidth capacity grow. Once again, the only way to guard against degradation of the VPN network is to opt for a paid VPN provider. The alternative would be an excellent free VPN service that few people know about. Sadly, word quickly spreads and even the best-quality free VPN services would be overwhelmed.

Free VPNs Offer A Major Benefit to Clients

Anonymity of browsing is an issue that needs to be tackled head-on. The reason for using a VPN in the first place is to ensure that your Internet browsing activity is cloaked from prying eyes. Various free VPN providers will not require user information before signing up. Even if this data is required, users can input false data to satisfy the request.

Unfortunately, paid VPN providers require payment information, names, and addresses. From this perspective, a paid VPN service is actually disadvantaging the client by requiring sensitive personal information to be input.

If government agencies sequester information from VPN providers they will be required by law to hand over client information. This could potentially compromise the client’s security. This is one of the major benefits to using a free VPN service provider over a paid service. It’s not quite that simple since IP addresses are available to the VPN service provider – free or premium. And an IP address is just as good as your name if you’re browsing from your device.

Going with the Best VPN Provider

Overall, the pros and cons of using free VPNs or paid VPNs will vary according to your preferences. If anonymity is your overriding concern, you may not want to input sensitive personal information when paying for a VPN service. However, with today’s variety of payment options it is possible to use a paid VPN service with relative anonymity and still enjoy all the benefits thereof.

Tech experts recommend conducting a thorough analysis of your premium VPN options. For example, NordVPN reviews like the ones found here, confirm what experts have long been saying: The paid service trumps the free service any day of the week. Bandwidth, disconnects, the number of servers in use, customer support and operations, and connection speed are all issues that need to be factored into the equation.

read more

Google pokes at you if you watch too much porn using Chrome Incognito Mode

Google pokes at you if you watch too much porn using Chrome Incognito Mode

Google knows if you’re watching too much porn using Chrome Incognito browsing

We said it earlier but you didn’t pay heed. Long back, we had reported why surfing porn using incognito mode or private browsing mode in Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Microsoft Edge or Internet Explorer, Apple Safari and other browsers is bad. Google proved us right!!! To know how read on….

It is a well-known fact that 9.5 users out 10 use incognito or private browsing mode to watch porn. Some do it out of habit while others do it because the browser doesn’t save the history of their nocturnal pursuits. But a vast majority of those using incognito mode or private browsing window to surf porn do it because they believe their sexual escapades will be safe from prying eyes.

Yes, Google Chrome’s incognito mode allows you to browse porn to your heart’s content and your laptop or phone will store no evidence of it. And yes, it is also a fact that Google knows you are using Chrome’s Incognito mode to surf porn. When you open 100 incognito windows in Google Chrome, a smiley or winky face appears. Instead of the normal tab counter in the top right-hand corner, users will see the cheeky face. A winky face -;) -appears on Android devices. Open 100 tabs on your iOS device, and you’ll be greeted with a less knowing, more innocent smiley.

Targeting those who spend a lot of time using Incognito Mode, Google’s letting users see their dirty videos finished off with a cheeky hidden message.
While Google’s winky smiley on Android smartphones and iPhones may just be a cheeky response to porn surfers, it also proves what we have been saying for a long time. Using Google Chrome Incognito mode or any browsers private browsing mode to watch adult entertainment videos is not safe.

Considering the above facts, it is unwise to think that your Incognito mode porn surfing habits are either private or anonymous. If you really want to be anonymous, use VPN but don’t ever, ever be under the impression that your Incognito browsing records are private.

read more

8 privacy tools that will keep you safe online

8 privacy tools that will keep you safe online

Stay secure with these 8 privacy tools

For any internet user, safeguarding sensitive and confidential information has become a high priority, as internet these days are becoming a less private place with several individuals, corporations, and even governments in some cases, tracking your activities to collect users’ information and metrics.

Also, it is very easy to track a user because of the IP, the unique address that we all use to connect to internet that makes online privacy a big concern. However, if you wish to keep your personal information private, you can use a VPN or proxy tool to help you. It covers everything from secure web browsing to secure file erasing.

Let’s have a look at the privacy tools below:

1. Tor Browser

The Tor network (short for The Onion Router, which describes its multi-layered privacy technology) offers you an anonymous window to the Web. By far, the Firefox-based Tor Browser is the quickest and simplest to start using it.

Tor’s network of bouncing your traffic through multiple relays makes it nearly impossible to track a user’s identity or activity. You can access almost every website anonymously, including “.onion” addresses, which are only accessible while connected to Tor. It’s also useful for accessing geo-blocked sites that block IP addresses from specific countries. Tor is available for Windows, Apple Macs and Linux.

2. CyberGhost VPN

CyberGhost allows users to connect to a VPN (virtual private network) and access the internet anonymously. The service is built for users who just want secure, private access when connected from public or untrusted networks. It re-routes your internet traffic to hide your location and identity. The privacy software has six elements: anonymous browsing, unblocking streaming sites, protecting your internet connection, torrenting anonymously, unblocking websites and choosing which VPN server to use

CyberGhost VPN is available as a free ad-supported app, as well as a paid-for edition that provides enhanced performance and more features. The free version should be perfectly adequate for daily or random use. However, it runs much more slowly than the paid-for premium service. The CyberGhost VPN client supports Windows XP, Vista, and 7.

3. Tails

Privacy has become a major issue in this age of mass surveillance and tracking by marketers (anonymous tracking for targeted content is acceptable). If you are someone who needs to keep the government and marketing agencies out of your business, you need an operating system that’s created — from the ground up — with privacy in mind.

And, nothing beats Tails for this purpose. It’s a Debian-based Linux distribution that offers privacy and anonymity by design. It’s a distro whose aim is solely to keep the identity of the user completely opaque. It routes its traffic through Tor, designed to avoid your outward-bound data from being intercepted and analysed. According to reports, Tails is so good that the NSA considers it a major threat to their hacking activities.

4. Ghostery

Ghostery is a privacy and security-related browser extension and mobile application, which is distributed as proprietary freeware. You can simply install the privacy software and allow it to do its job. Ghostery also tells you exactly what each company is looking at and likely to do with your data. It is definitely a must-have for those who do wish to share every click with marketers. It’s available for Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, Microsoft Internet Explorer, Microsoft Edge, Opera, Apple Safari, iOS, Android and Firefox Mobile.

5. GnuPG

GNU Privacy Guard (GnuPG or GPG) is a free software, and it’s the open source version of the venerable PGP (Pretty Good Privacy) tool. GnuPG allows you to encrypt and sign your data and communication that’s effectively unbreakable. It features a versatile key management system as well as access modules for all kinds of public key directories. It is a command line tool with features for easy integration with other applications.

6. KeyScrambler

KeyScrambler is the most useful method that encrypts every single key that you entered or type deep into the Windows kernel to prevent it from being intercepted by keylogging software. The positioning and timing of encryption key allow it to be much more challenging and burdensome for key-loggers to split or defeat KeyScrambler’s protection.

If you worry about keylogging or doubt that you are being logged whenever you type, this free privacy software is a good way to frustrate the watchmen.

7. Wise Folder Hider

Designed for Windows XP onwards, Wise Folder Hider is freeware that can quickly and safely hide not only the files/folders on local partitions or removable devices but also USB drives or the files/folders on USB drives. The hidden files/folders will be safely hidden no matter whether the drive is accessed in another operating system on the same computer or reinstalled on another computer. The only way to access hidden files/folders/USB is to enter the valid password(s) correctly. Its double password protection can ensure the absolute safety of your files/folders/USB.

8. AntiSpy for Windows 10

While Windows 10 is the most personal version of Windows, Microsoft’s attempts at knowing you better have alerted many privacy activists. AntiSpy for Windows 10 allows you to disable advertising IDs, SmartScreen filtering, whether apps can access your camera and so on.

Source: TOI

read more

What is VPN and why should you always use VPN services

What is VPN and why should you always use VPN services

What Is a Virtual Private Network (VPN), and Why Would I Need One?

VPN is short for virtual private network and it allows you to create a secure connection to another network over the Internet. During your long haul on the Internet, you must come across some websites that say that access is not allowed. This could be due to a variety of reasons like the website being banned in your country or your IP address being blacklisted.

This is where the VPN comes into play. A VPN can be used to access region-restricted websites, shield your browsing activity from prying eyes on public Wi-Fi, and more. In this article, we study the uses of VPN and why it is absolutely necessary for you to use one.

What is a VPN?

For those with academic leanings, A virtual private network (VPN) is a network that is constructed using public wires — usually the Internet — to connect to a private network, such as a company’s internal network. There are a number of systems that enable you to create networks using the Internet as the medium for transporting data. It secures the private network as these systems use encryption and other security mechanisms to ensure that only authorized users can access the network and that the data cannot be intercepted.

Image result for vpn

When you connect your computer (or another device, such as a smartphone or tablet) to a VPN, the computer acts as if it’s on the same local network as the VPN. All your network traffic is sent over a secure connection to the VPN. Because your computer behaves as if it’s on the network, this allows you to securely access local network resources even when you’re on the other side of the world. You’ll also be able to use the Internet as if you were present at the VPN’s location, which has some benefits if you’re using public Wi-Fi or want to access geo-blocked websites.

In layman terms, when you type in in your VPN connected desktop browser or smartphone browser, instead of your browser pinging directly to Google servers, it pings your VPN service providers servers. The VPN servicer providers servers then ping Google servers. Which means that the VPN acts as a shield  in your connection and prevents Google to directly access your IP or location.

When you browse the web while connected to a VPN, your computer contacts the website through the encrypted VPN connection. If you’re using a USA-based VPN to access Netflix, Netflix will see your connection as coming from within the USA.

While surfing Google is harmless, imagine you want to download a torrent from a website which is banned in your country. In such a case, when you type in the torrent URL (say instead of pinging the TPB website directly your desktop/smartphone will ping the VPN servers which are whitelisted in your country and allow you untethered access to the torrent that you want.

Uses for VPNs

In the early times of Internet, VPN’s were a luxury which only a few could afford. But now a days with tons of VPN service providers, you can get an encrypted VPN connection relatively cheaply or freely. VPNs can help you do the following things :

  • Accessing blocked websites : As explained above, if thepiratebay is banned in your country, a VPN can help you solve the issue by making your ISP believe that you are accessing a legal website and allow you to download torrents.
  • Accessing geo-blocked websites :  If you are trying to access a particular service like Netflix, Hulu, Pandora etc from outside of United States, a VPN will allow you access to such region-restricted services if you connect to a VPN servers in the USA.
  • Hide Your Browsing Activity From Your Local Network and ISP : As was proved by Edward Snowden, the governments from the world over snoop on their citizens for various reasons. If you’re using a public Wi-Fi connection, your browsing activity is visible to your ISP, government, and almost everybody. If you want to hide your browsing activity for a bit more privacy, you can connect to a VPN. If you are using a VPN, the ISP/government will only see a single, secure VPN connection because all your web traffic through a secure VPN tunnel. While this can be used to bypass connection-monitoring by your Internet service provider, bear in mind that VPN providers may opt to log the traffic on their ends.
  • Bypass Internet Censorship: Governments from the world over block access to websites that are deemed harmful to their citizens. China blocks almost every western website for the fear of evoking pro-democracy ideas among its citizens. India bans almost every adult website under the assumption that its citizens are harmed by watching porn. VPN can help you bypass such censorships with ease.
  • Downloading torrents or files: Torrent downloads are the single biggest reason that VPN services are so popular today. In some countries, torrent websites are banned absolutely which in some countries, the ISPs throttle the download speed if you are downloading a torrent file. VPNs solve both these problems with ease.

Using a VPN

In early VPN days, setting up a VPN service on your Windows PC would an absolute pain in the ass. But with the advent of Windows 7 and 10, adding VPN has become a piece of cake. In Windows 7, press the Windows key, type VPN, and click the Set up a virtual private network (VPN) connection option.

If you are using Windows 10, type in VPN in the search bar. it will bring up Change Virtual Private Networks Setting. Now enable the VPN in next window.

Image result for adding vpn in windows 10

In the window that follows, add the login credentials of the VPN service you want to use. You can then connect to and disconnect from VPNs using the network icon in the system tray – the same one where you manage the Wi-Fi networks you’re connected to.

Image result for adding vpn in windows 10

Many of the top VPN service providers offer clients that do the connection configuration for you.

read more

You can disable lots of Google’s tracking through this page

You can disable lots of Google's tracking through this pageYou can disable lots of Google's tracking through this page

Privacy : This Page Lets You Disable a Lot of Google’s Activity Tracking

It’s an open secret that Google probably knows more about you than you. The search giant probes all your online activities by tracking lots of your data. Some people may be comfortable with Google tracking them but a majority of Internet users who use Google’s search/mail/browser/Apps may not be happy with continuous tracking that goes on behind their back. If you are one of such privacy oriented individuals, it can be a pain to figure out how to turn Google’s tracking off. Fortunately, for such people, Google has made an all encompassing settings page where you can disable a lot of it.

Earlier this year, Google created a timeline of your activity that you can browse to see just what the company knows about you and delete it if you want. Be warned that the timeline only handles the data that Google already has. If you want to stop it from getting that data in the first place, follow these steps:

  1. Head to this link to find your My Activity page.
  2. Click the menu button (three vertical dots) at the top-right of the page.
  3. Click “Activity Controls.”

On the My Activity page, you can scroll through a selection of different kinds of Google tracking, including web activity, location history, voice recordings, and YouTube history. You can select the tracking feature to disable from here and disable as many of these as you want.

Do remember that disabling data tracking creates obstacles in Google serving its optimum services to you. You might lose some Google features. For example, disabling voice recording will probably remove Ok, Google from your phone.

But once you have disabled Google’s data tracking, Google may stop tracking that part of data from your online surfing. However, Google has other ways and means to a lot about you, as Google may still collect anonymized data, but it at least won’t be tied to your name.

read more

WhatsApp to share your user data with Facebook

WhatsApp to share your user data with Facebook

WhatsApp to start sharing user data with Facebook

Finally, which was feared has happened now. When the popular cross-platform messaging App, WhatsApp was bought by Facebook in 2014, it was assumed that the very premise of privacy on which the App was built, would be shattered. WhatsApp had gained trust and popularity based on its no ads policy and respect for users privacy. Naturally, Facebook buying WhatsApp had users worried that their data would somehow be shared with the social networking behemoth.

At that time it was known that it was just a matter of time when Facebook integrated WhatsApp into its plan of minting money using 1 billion WhatsApp users. WhatsApp Co-founder Jan Koum has written a detailed blog post trying to assuage WhatsApp users frustrations. In the post, Koum said “Respect for your privacy is coded into our DNA, and we built WhatsApp around the goal of knowing as little about you as possible.”

“But what WhatsApp users feared is happening now and Koum may have to eat his own words. WhatsApp has finally fallen to the lure of money and is loosening some of its own restrictions, and has announced it will begin sharing a limited amount of user data — including individuals’ phone numbers — with parent company Facebook.

Officially, WhatsApp says that sharing this information means Facebook can offer better friend suggestions by mapping users’ social connections across the two services, and deliver more relevant ads on the social network. Additional analytics data from WhatsApp will also be shared to track usage metrics and fight spam.

However, WhatsApp users are convinced that this a sham and their data will sooner rather than later be used for advertising and making money for Facebook. WhatsApp is keen to preempt criticism, and says that although it’s changing its privacy policy, it continues to support end-to-end encryption. “Even as we coordinate more with Facebook in the months ahead, your encrypted messages stay private and no one else can read them,” says the company in a blog post. “Not WhatsApp, not Facebook, nor anyone else. We won’t post or share your WhatsApp number with others, including on Facebook, and we still won’t sell, share, or give your phone number to advertisers.”

This, however, opens golden gates for other cross-platform messaging Apps like Hike if they can assure users that their data won’t be misused like what WhatsApp will be doing now on.

read more

Privacy of billion Indians at risk as Indian Parliament set to pass Aadhaar Bill

Privacy of billion Indians at risk as Indian Parliament set to pass Aadhaar Bill

India’s Aadhaar biometric database will have billion Indians irises, raises privacy fears

The Parliament of India is set to pass the Aadhaar Bill that would allow federal agencies access to the world’s enormous biometric database in the interests of national security, raising fears that the privacy of a billion people could be compromised.

The move say some privacy advocates could also help in surveillance far more invasive than the US telephone and internet spying exposed by former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden in 2013.

Launched in 2009, the Aadhaar ID database scheme was established to streamline payment of benefits and reduce huge wastage and fraud. Nearly a billion people have registered their finger prints and iris signatures. Data collected under the project is encrypted and stored within national data centres in Bangalore and Manesar.

Now the BJP, who have inherited the scheme want to use a loophole to bypass the opposition in Parliament and pass new provisions including those on national security. In an effort to secure passage before lawmakers go into recess, the Centre brought the Aadhaar legislation to Rajya Sabha today as a financial bill – which cannot be rejected. It can be returned to Lok Sabha, but here the ruling party holds a majority.

“It has been showcased as a tool exclusively meant for disbursement of subsidies and we do not realise that it can also be used for mass surveillance,” said Tathagata Satpathy, a lawmaker from Odisha.

“Can the government … assure us that this Aadhaar card and the data that will be collected under it – biometric, biological, iris scan, finger print, everything put together – will not be misused as has been done by the NSA in the US?”

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has safeguarded the legislation, citing that an estimated 150 billion rupees (approx. £1.6 billion) was saved by the scheme in the financial year 2014-2015. A finance ministry official added that the BJP would ensure that people’s privacy is respected and that third-party federal access would only be granted in special cases.

According to another government official, the new law is in fact more limited in scope than the decades-old Telegraph Act, which permits national security agencies and tax authorities to intercept telephone conversations of individuals in the interest of public safety.

However, political opponents and religious minorities also worry that abusive management of the database could be used as a tool to silence and harass individuals considered as potential security threats.

Cybersecurity experts have further argued that a central reserve of biometric data in the world’s most populated democracy could present a huge risk if compromised.

“We are midwifing a police state,” said Asaduddin Owaisi, an opposition MP.

Global policy director at Access, an international digital rights organisation, Raman Jit Singh Chima said the proposed Indian law did not have the transparency and oversight safeguards found in Europe or the United States, which last year changed its bulk telephone surveillance programme.

He pointed to the US Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which must accept many surveillance requests made by intelligence agencies, and European data protection authorities as oversight mechanisms not present in the Indian proposal.

New Delhi-based PRS Legislative Research in its assessment of the measure, said law enforcement agencies could use someone’s Aadhaar number as a link across numerous datasets such as telephone and air travel records.

That would allow them to identify patterns of behaviour and discover potential illegal activities. But it could also lead to harassment of individuals who are identified incorrectly as potential security threats, PRS said.

“Maintaining a central database is akin to getting the keys of every house in Delhi and storing them at a central police station,” said Sunil Abraham, executive director at the Center for Internet and Society in Bengaluru.

“It is very easy to capture iris data of any individual with the use of next generation cameras. Imagine a situation where the police is secretly capturing the iris data of protesters and then identifying them through their biometric records,” he said.

read more