9 April 2021


Duck Duck Go audit and Searx

Thanks to Aral Balkan: https://source.puri.sm/toolauditor/CEAP/-/blob/master/audits/ddg.md
This is crazy; no one should use them.

My default search engine is already Searx (search.disroot.org); though:

  • occasionally Google blocks it;
  • returning to the search page via the browser's back-button produces a "Confirm Form Resubmission";
  • DDG or Google's results are sometimes better;
  • Smart answers, like "$20,000 in Euros" don't give results.

Anyway, I've deleted DDG from my browsers. I will try to do more research on Ecosia, StartPage and others.


I helped behind the scenes with another Zoom event: an interview with the principal and vice-principal of our binational primary school. The only technical hitch was caused by me. S. hadn't set up her Zoom to automatically admit new participants, and she had also allowed people to unmute themselves. There is one special guest user, of a tech guy who had come in to manage the photography and the software; he probably was using mainly OBS, though I didn't ask him. Anyway I accidentally muted him when trying to admit and mute somebody else; so we lost audio for a minute or two in the middle. I know, we should buy the equipment and learn how to do these events myself so we don't need to hire someone.


Birth year palindromes

The birthday of one of my sons the other day produces a numeric palindrome of his birth year (born in '83 and now '37). It's the same for me this year, as I was born in 1956. I think almost everybody has a chance of that happening once; though for those who were born in 1999, though those whose birthday year ends in a 9 are advised to lead a healthy lifestyle.


So many bad things happening around the world right now: the attrocities in Myanmar; a Russian build-up on the Ukraine border; disturbances in N. Ireland; racism in Australia;, Israel's mining of the Iranian ship; settler violence against Palestinians...

Biden restores $200m in US aid to Palestinians slashed by Trump | US foreign policy | The Guardian
"The US will restore more than $200m (£145m) in aid to Palestinians, reversing massive funding cuts under the Trump administration that left humanitarian groups scrambling to keep people from plunging into poverty."
This at least is good. The Trump administration's bid to blackmail the Palestinians into doing Israel's bidding failed. But the US should be wielding its influence on Israel to help solve the problem.

3,000-year-old ‘lost golden city’ of ancient Egypt discovered | Egypt | The Guardian
“Within weeks, to the team’s great surprise, formations of mud bricks began to appear in all directions. What they unearthed was the site of a large city in a good condition of preservation, with almost complete walls, and with rooms filled with tools of daily life.”

17 February, 2021


I can't really complain about the weather in these parts, when the situation is currently much worse over wide areas of the planet. But we have had a day of hard rain, turning to sleet and snow in areas above 1,000 metres. Here in our village it's currently 4 C outside; about the coldest we've had it this year. Jerusalem is seeing snow for the first time in 6 years. Israelis love it and flock to see a few flakes of snow, but not me. One thing I'm pretty sure of is that I wouldn't want to live much further north. I used to hate the hot weather and not mind the cold, but nowadays I'm happier in warmer climes.

In the morning I read a couple of articles about the IndieWeb. I used to be more interested in its POSSE philosophy, before I grew fed up of the commercial services and started not to care about exposure. Daniel Goldsmith's article on free software is also interesting, though by the end of it, I somehow felt a bit out of my depth. I need to read more about what he calls the differences between American and European concepts of libertarianism and understand how this plays out in the development of the free software movement (if he's right). Those of us who lack a good grounding in political thinking, are perhaps unduly influenced by simplistic ideas of a freedom. and suffer from a less developed social consciousness. And then again, it's one thing to know ideas and principles, and quite another to apply them.

Links blog

✭'Spy pixels in emails have become endemic' - BBC News
- Emails pixels can be used to log:
- if and when an email is opened
- how many times it is opened
- what device or devices are involved
- the user's rough physical location, deduced from their internet protocol (IP) address - in some cases making it possible to see the street the recipient is on
#email #privacy

✭The Original Sin of Free Software

"... all positive rights are expressed purely in individual terms. There are no collective rights in these documents, just individual rights. The ideal of the developer as an individual is hard-coded into the DNA of the Free Software Movement and its various children."

"It is important to remember that the American version of Libertarianism, as espoused by Ayn Rand and her ideologues, is nothing to do with the Franco-European tradition of libertarianism, a spectrum of leftist anarchism running from Babeuf through Déjacque to Faure. American Libertarianism should more accurately be described as “anarchist-capitalism”, a strain of pseudo-political thought which idolises the popular concept of the Old West as a high-point of western civilisation, when men were men and justice as dispensed from the barrel of a gun."


✭Aaron Parecki
I'm Aaron, co-founder of IndieWebCamp. I maintain oauth.net, write and consult about OAuth, and am the editor of several W3C specifications. I help people learn about video production and livestreaming.

Social media links for US visa applicants

Trump administration to force US visa applicants to hand over social media details
(Was optional the last couple of years, but will now be required.)


Nearly all travellers to the US will be required to produce details of social media accounts they have used in the previous five years, as well as present and past phone numbers and email addresses.

After the approval of revised visa application forms, the US State Department is now requiring nearly all applicants for US immigrant and non-immigrant visas to list their Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other social media usernames.

The change is expected to affect some 15 million foreigners who travel to the US each year, including those who do so for business or education.

Only applicants for certain diplomatic and official visa types are exempted from the requirements.

Modem Router

I'm returning the shiny new modem-router the phone company sent me and have bought a new one over the counter instead. The phone company's modem came with a long contract that involved agreeing to all kinds of data collection. They can probably gather this anyway, but at least I don't have to agree to it. My sons, who, I'm sure are smarter than me about such matters, say that they are already resigned to the fact that nothing we do online or offline is private anymore. My only response is that at least we should resist, even if our resistance isn't effective. "Like Palestinians," I say. "And where does it get them?" they respond. I suppose freedom is a state of mind. If we make choices, even when they are inconvenient, difficult or even dangerous, we grow in spirit. When we just accept the default options, we are cowed, enslaved, though we may not realise it. The awareness of our subjugation only comes when we begin to resist a system and sometimes get pushed into compromises. But small acts of resistance restore the sense of our integrity.


There's a search engine called searchencrypt.com that claims to be more private than DDG. I took a look. I couldn't find an explanation of where their search results originate from, who they are, what their business model is, where their money comes from, or why they want us to install a browser extention that has access to all our data. I think it's possible to create a default search engine without installing an addon, and the only addon I've installed in Waterfox is PrivacyBadger.

I see from their "about page" only that the company operates out of Limassol, Cyprus and from their "terms of service" page that the software is copyrighted. Without more information, I don't think I will be using this one.


I've eventually chosen searx (about) as my default search engine for my Waterfox browser, using an instance of it hosted by Disroot.org. Steps to do this:
1. opened https://search.disroot.org/
2. clicked on the down arrow next to the search box.
3. chose the option to add SearX to the list of search engines.
4. clicked on "search preferences", (which takes us to the right place in Preferences.'
5. clicked on searx to make that the default search engine.
I also made searx my home page.

Tor has grown easier

For the last couple of days I've been using Tor for general browsing again. It seems to have gotten a little easier. My work email is on Google Apps, and it was previously almost impractical to use Tor with Gmail. I think some people object that it defeats the purpose of Tor to use it for sites like Gmail, but I'm not aiming for total anonymity, just better privacy than I ordinarily have.  Now the Gmail issue has gone away, it's no longer necessary to divide my time between it and another browser.

While updating a website today the exit node I was connecting through was blacklisted, but it was enough to change the Tor circuit in order to overcome that.

Tor has also proved to be fast enough for my needs. Something about it may eventually iritate me; but for now good.

Wanna buy my browsing history?

ISPs might do well at profiling the interests of some of their customers. But for people like web designers, writers or journalists, an average day might see them browsing an eclectic mix of sites on everything under the sun. And what if you've got a couple of people like that, or a bored teenager or two in the household as well? I wonder how useful this information might be to an advertiser?

So I just had a thought: rather than assiduously trying to cover our steps by using VPNs, Tor, Https Everywhere, Privacy Badger, or whatever, maybe an opposite strategy would be far superior.

A call to app or browser extension designers: give us something that can randomize browsing history. Automate sending our browser on a day-long crawl across multiple and sundry websites. The resulting web history would be pure gibberish, of no value to anyone. Furthermore, it would quickly become obvious what was happening: our browsing history would become just as worthless to the government surveillance agencies that are tracking us too.

Resisting the normalization of surveillance by demonstrating that we care

In the coming weeks the UK will pass the most stringent and far reaching surveillance law in any western nation.  In the US, millions of people are alarmed about the possible implications of electing to the highest office a demagogic xenophobe with a muddled right wing agenda. Other countries too have been tightening up their surveillance laws, using the danger of terrorism as excuse.  In response to this massive assault on our privacy, it is our duty to resist surveillance, either through political means, or by demonstrating as individuals that we care about our privacy and will do all that we can to protect it. In fact, we will deliberately make life difficult for security and law enforcement agencies to collect information on us.

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