Insights For Success

Strategy, Innovation, Leadership and Security

Google

How to search the web while protecting your privacy

GeneralEdward KiledjianComment
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They want to know everything about you

It is no secret that every advertising-funded site (Facebook, Yahoo, Google, Bing, etc) works very hard to build a complete profile about you. They want to know as much as possible so they can sell expensive highly targeted advertisements.

Every search you perform, every site you visit, every link you click is recorded and analyzed.

You live in a filter bubble

The profile we talked about above is also used to return information the site believes you will like most (therefore making themselves more sticky). this is the filter bubble problem.

The site (e.g. Google) will return results that it believes are aligned with your view and this is what we call the filter bubble. At some point, you will stop seeing other opinions or points of view. In the most extreme examples, it can reinforce certain questionable points of view such as the earth is flat or other similar prejudices.

How do I search the web privately

There are many search engines that promise private searches but the problem with most is that they crawl the web themselves and their index of the web just isn’t as good as Google. This is where startpage.com comes in. It allows you to search using the Google web index without giving up your privacy.

  • Startpage.com does not log user activity and does not perform any type of user tracking or profiling

  • Startpage.com allows you to browse any of the pages returned in a search query anonymously

  • Startpage.com is based in the Netherlands which has better privacy protection than the US

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Ok but are the search results good?

  • Search results use the Google index so they are as good as can be without profiling you to customize the response

  • The results layout page is clean and uncluttered

  • You can search the web, images or videos


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  • You have all of the advanced search options you could need (including words contained, avoiding certain words, dates, domains, language, file type, etc)

  • Some searches won’t contain ads and those that do clearly mark them with the word Ad

  • You can browse any search result link using their free anonymous browsing option (called Anonymous View)

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When you browse using the Anonymous View, the webpage is surrounded by a blue frame

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How it makes money

Startpagecom generates its revenue from clearly marked search ads and affiliate links.

These ads are not targeted (since they do not profile visitors).

The ads are segregated from the actual search results so as not to confuse the visitor.


Tell me more about Startpage.com’s privacy

Since most of its users originate from the US, Startpage.com has search servers located in the US to speed up searches. These servers are said to be hardened and properly secured.

This should be perfectly acceptable to most users but if you are extra paranoid, Startpage.com does offer users the option of choosing non-USA servers.

Their privacy claims have been independently verified (read this).

They have never showed up on any blacklist (that I can find)

They have an A+ rating from the Qualys SSL Labs site


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OnePlus policy that makes it a better buy than Samsung, HTC or LG

GeneralEdward KiledjianComment
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As a security technologist, the security philosophy of the OEM is a crucial determinant of my decision to buy or recommend a device. This is where Apple shines with it's iPhone update strategy. Every single iPhone receives updates (security and version) at the same time. 

This is why I highly recommend Google's Pixel devices. The Pixel line offers the same regular and speedy update schedule. The other Android manufacturer that has shown it cares about upgrades is OnePlus. Until this week, it did a great job delivering updates quickly, but it didn't formally commit to a software upgrade schedule. 

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All of that changes this week when OnePlus unveiled its new operating system (Android) maintenance schedule. It has copied the Google Pixel model and will deliver major upgrades for two years and security updates for three years. 

As per the maintenance schedule, there will be 2 years of regular software updates from the release date of the phone (release dates of T variants would be considered), including new features, Android versions, Android security patches and bug fixes and an additional year of Android security patch updates every 2 months.
— OnePlus OS Maintenance Schedule

Conclusion

OnePlus has always offered solid well-designed devices at competitive prices. This new software maintenance schedule commitment makes their offering that much more compelling. 

I can no longer recommend devices from manufacturers that do not regularly deliver security and version upgrades. This is why I only recommend Android devices from Google, Blackberry Mobile and OnePlus. 

Google launches New Tasks App (Mobile & Web)

GeneralEdward KiledjianComment
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In a blog post entitled "With new security and intelligent features, the new Gmail means business", David Thacker (Google VP Product Management, G Suite) announced, "We’re also introducing a new way to manage work on the go with Tasks."

The new refreshed Tasks system will be available on the web and have accompanying mobile apps (Android and IOS). The new updated Tasks system will allow you to create tasks & subtasks with due dates and notifications. 

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The current tasks was an anemic stand-alone product that barely worked. The new one will integrate into the G Suite and allow you to drag & drop emails from GMAIL, files from Google Drive and more. 

Now you can quickly reference, create or edit Calendar invites, capture ideas in Keep or manage to-dos in Tasks all from a side panel in your inbox.
— David Thacker

The announcement is happening in the G Suite (Enterprise blog), but this update will flow to the free consumer-friendly version as well. 

The Google help centre provides additional information about how all of this will work.

Download the new Android version here and the IOS one here

Best URL shorteners

GeneralEdward Kiledjian4 Comments
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URL shorteners are something you either use a lot or never. Google launched it's own URL shortening service in 2009 with unique (at the time) features like third-party API access, QR code generation, ability to use easily on mobile. 

But Google is retiring this public facing service and replacing it with Firebase Dynamic Links (FDL) accessible by developers only. 

This is not surprising since Twitter retired Deck.ly when it acquired TweetDeck.

If you have links, Google is giving you until March 30, 2019, to figure out what you are going to do (even though you will lose the ability to create new short links on April 13). 

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What are the best Goo.gl alternatives?

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1 - Bit.ly

The first alternative has to be Bit.ly which is one of the most popular URL shortening services on the internet and one of the oldest. You create an account and then generate short links as required (you can also choose a tag to group your URL). 

Bitly allows you to create custom branded short URLs, which is excellent for marketing. 

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2 - Ow.ly

Hootsuite runs a service called Ow.ly. Ow.ly offers all of the features of Bit.ly but integrates with HootSuite. So if you use Hootsuite to manage your social media presence, this could be the best option for you.

The big difference is that Bit.ly allows you to quickly shorten a link from their main webpage without having to sign-up whereas Ow.ly does not.

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3 - rebrandly.com

Many lists include Firebase from Google but I am omitting it since it is only designed for use by developers in apps (not useful for the average Joe). My last recommendation is Rebrandly.com which offers custom URL shorteners. Many large cloud companies are Rebrandly customers (such as Microsoft, Dropbox, etc).

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Before you get scared and look away, they offer a free tier that will meet the needs of most users.

Conclusion

A URL shortener is a service that you will rely on for years, and I have presented the companies (services) that look to be the most stable. Remeber that when the service disappears's your links break which could wreak havoc on your social strategy.

Run a speed test from Google Search

GeneralEdward KiledjianComment
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There are dozens of sites and services that promise to test your internet speed. The most popular are:

Now you can also add Google to the list.

1 - Go to the Google Search Page (on a PC or Android device)

2 - Enter Speed Test

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3 - Choose the Run Speed Test option and ignore the search results

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4 - Wait until Google delivers your speed test results

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Android Smartphones - This tool also works on Android devices. Just search for Speed Test on the Google search bar on your launcher and it will perform the same test and return results with a similar look & feel.

Some public WIFI hotspots seem to block it while allowing other services to run. Not sure why.

Does it work in other languages?

 I tried the search on the Google Canada French site using both "Speed Test" and "test de vitesse" and I was not given the speed test web applet. Looks like this may be reserved for english language searches only for now.

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Conclusion

Nothing special or different here but this could be one more feature in your cap. I do like the fact that Google interprets the results and explains (in plain English) what kind of video streaming performance you should be able to expect from your connection.