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digital freedom

Your Devices Are Whispering – and you can’t hear them

Occasionally, VERY occasionally, I visit the subject of digital freedom and privacy, a topic of interest to we enjoyers of internet carnality.

Today’s post explores the latest variation of tracking – how “they” watch and use our habits and visits and clicks from our email and web site views, and build databases and profiles of us to sell us their stuff.

I wrote before about Locally Shared Objects, (LSOs), also known colloquially as “flash cookies” or “supercookies,” which can remain on a computer even if a user tells his or her browser to delete all
cookies. More on that HERE . And that’s not just on desktops; just for one example, did you know that Verizon’s supercookies (also known as zombiecookies) – a snippet of code injected into mobile users’ web requests — silently identify and track its customers, sharing the information with AOL’s wide-reaching ad network? Continue reading →

How to Back Up Your Tumblr Adult Blog and Save It From Yahoo Oblivion

Few know better than I that sinking feeling of popping open the computer one morning and finding you’ve been erased – Blogger/Google did that to me almost three years ago now, and my Blogger blog was simply shut down, no warning, no appeal, never to be seen again. All images uploaded (I had over 700) simply vanished and could be be found or rescued. They killed my entire Google account including my gmail address. And all, I believe, because “someone” complained.

The same thing happened to Garm, who was, and still is but not on Blogger, marvelously creative at image reworking and manipulation. I warned him when it happened to me, to no avail. Happily I archived a number of his images which are scattered through the collections on the pages under Galleries up top, and I featured his work in three of the DJs of Porn posts (first, second, and third).

So. What about this Tumblr dustup?

Now Yahoo has bought Tumblr, and for some weeks before the deal was announced, Tumblr had been making the Tumblr porn blogs invisible to search engines, especially Google, by the way it handled the robots.txt file. Sex blogger Bacchus at ErosBlog (not on Tumblr :)) who has been blogging on sex since 2002, has documented this and come up with detailed instructions and a rationale for you all out there in carnal land to back up your porn Tumblr blogs and save them from possible no warning doom. Here is his post reblogged in full, and props to him for taking the time, energy and interest to offer this solution: Continue reading →

Google Will Censor Blogger Blogs

Google to Censor Blogger Blogs on a ‘Per Country Basis’

(Via by David Kravets and The Blog Herald by James Johnson)

Blogger logoGoogle has quietly announced changes to its Blogger free-blogging platform that will enable the blocking of content only in countries where censorship is required.

Twitter announced technology last week addressing the same topic. It said it had acquired the ability to censor tweets in the countries only where it was ordered removed, instead of on an internet-wide basis.

Twitter’s announcement via its blog sparked a huge online backlash. The microblogging service was accused of becoming a censoring agent.

Yet Google’s announcement three weeks ago — buried in a Blogger help page — went unnoticed until it was highlighted by TechDows on Tuesday.

Google wrote Jan. 9 it would begin redirecting Blogger traffic to country-specific URLs, meaning whatever country you’re in, you’ll get that country’s domain for Blogger-hosted blogs.

TechDows reports that this is now happening in India, for example. So when you’re there and click on a Blogger blog, the URL will end .in.

Doing that, Google wrote, means content can be removed “on a per country basis.”

“Migrating to localized domains will allow us to continue promoting free expression and responsible publishing while providing greater flexibility in complying with valid removal requests pursuant to local law,” Google wrote.

By adding country specific URLs Google can censor a blog post in one country but leave it untouched for example in the United States.

In a Blogger blog post titled Why does my blog redirect to a country-specific URL?” Google explains that the program is meant to “limit” censored content:

“Over the coming weeks you might notice that the URL of a blog you’re reading has been redirected to a country-code top level domain, or “ccTLD.” For example, if you’re in Australia and viewing [blogname], you might be redirected [blogname] A ccTLD, when it appears, corresponds with the country of the reader’s current location.”

To see non-affected pages users can go to (no country redirect) which will place a short term cookie in the users browser to prevent country based redirects while allowing a work around against censorship.

Twitter did not announce how its new technology functions, but said Twitter has the ability to remove tweets only in countries where that content was barred.


Now, I am a happy refugee from Blogger – although my departure was not voluntary at the time –  but to all you fellow adult or sex bloggers still hangin’ at Blogger, its time to get a move on. The writing’s on the wall.

If I can help you get started, send me an email through the Contact page and I am more than happy to share the benefit of my travails in starting the blog over, not on Google.

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Stop SOPA If You Love Your Porn

[sfwp id=15 img=itemtype.png]…and digital freedom.

meme from a Braveheart image of a stop SOPA message{UPDATE JANUARY 20, 2012 – This looks like the end of the beginning for PIPA/SOPA, as Harry Reid tweets that “In light of recent events, I have decided to postpone Tuesday’s vote on the PROTECT IP Act.”  Great job netizens!}

By now you may have heard something about the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA), the bills introduced in the U.S. Congress that want to cripple your internet. But I don’t see many other adult bloggers or commenters piping up about it so I will.

Here’s a little of the flavor of what it’s all about (if you already are on top of this intro material skip to the next heading, What’s So Bad…, or What Is DNS Blocking…, or if all you want to know is how to defeat it, skip on even further down to the end),[sfwp id=1 img=closediv.png]



What SOPA and PIPA do

Here’s what the government can do to foreign websites under even the most narrow reading of SOPA section 102 and PIPA section 3:

  1. -Order internet service providers to alter their DNS servers from resolving the domain names of websites in foreign countries that host illegal copies of videos, songs, and photos.
  2. -Order search engines like Google to modify search results to exclude foreign websites that host illegally copied material.
  3. -Order payment providers like PayPal to shut down the payment accounts of foreign websites that host illegally copied material.
  4. -Order ad services like Google’s AdSense to refuse any ads or payment from foreign sites that host illegally copied content.

(These rules don’t apply to domains that end in .com, .net, and .org, which fall under US law — the government has been seizing US domains used for piracy since 2010, and just seized 150 domains last month.)

That’s just the first part. SOPA section 103 and PIPA section 4 require payment processors and ad networks to shut down accounts if they receive the right kind of letter from a copyright owner — a system modeled on the heavily criticized notice-and-takedown provisions of the current Digital Millenium Copyright Act that requires a service like YouTube to pull down infringing content after the copyright owner complains. That system has been abused on occasion, but it ultimately works because it allows YouTube to avoid direct responsibility for the actions of its users —  it would have been otherwise sued out of existence.

Oh, but it gets worse. Much worse. SOPA section 104 offers legal immunity to ISPs that independently block websites that host illegally copied material without any prompting from the government. That’s a major conflict of interest for a huge ISP like Comcast, which also owns NBC — there would be nothing stopping Comcast from blocking a foreign video service that competes with NBC if it could claim it had a “reasonable belief” it was “dedicated to the theft of US property.” And indeed, Comcast is among the companies that support SOPA.

Now, you may have noticed that while all these rules are totally insane, they’re all at least theoretically restricted to foreign sites — defined by SOPA as sites with servers located outside the US. That’s important to know: at its simplest level, SOPA is a kneejerk reaction to the fundamental nature of the internet, which was explicitly designed to ignore outmoded and inconvenient concepts like the continuing existence of the United States. Because US copyright holders generally can’t drag a foreign web site into US courts to get them to stop stealing and distributing their work, SOPA allows them to go after the ISPs, ad networks, and payment processors that are in the United States. It is a law borne of the blind logic of revenge: the movie studios can’t punish the real pirates, so they are attacking the network instead.

These bills, and the enforcement philosophy that underlies them, represent a dramatic retreat from this country’s tradition of leadership in supporting the free exchange of information and ideas on the Internet. At a time when many foreign governments have dramatically stepped up their efforts to censor Internet communications, these bills would incorporate into U.S. law a principle more closely associated with those repressive regimes: a right to insist on the removal of content from the global Internet, regardless of where it may have originated or be located, in service of the exigencies of domestic law.

Now, for a more entertaining look at SOPA, take a gander over at the Young Turks on YouTube:


And here is the always entertaining Steven Colbert with a SOPA debate clip where music manager Danny Goldberg defends Internet piracy laws, and Harvard law professor Jonathan Zittrain doesn’t want Justin Bieber to go to jail for copyright infringement,


The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Stop Online Piracy Act – Danny Goldberg & Jonathan Zittrain
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog Video Archive


What’s so bad about SOPA anyway?

None other than Google’s Sergey Brin, says SOPA would put the US “on par with most oppressive nations in the world.” We’re talking about the internet policies of China, Iran, and North Korea here, gang. Great club for the U.S. to join, eh?

ESET’s Andrew Lee makes this point in an article about SOPA and the GoDaddy debacle (more on the GoDaddy subplot here and how Wikipedia pulled its domain names off GoDaddy here):

Stopping or reducing piracy is a good aim, and it’s one ESET will always support, it’s just that the target of SOPA is wrong. What we truly risk if SOPA passes is that America becomes an Internet backwater, where things look materially different to people here than they do for the rest of the world. This will inevitably affect businesses and that’s just bad for our economy as a whole.

This risk is best summed up by Representative Jared Polis (D. Col)

“Instead of closing down and arresting everyone in a crack house, it’s like changing all the street signs and roads so that it’s a lot more difficult to find the crack house. But it’s still there and if you try hard enough, you can find it. It also messes everyone else up, making places much harder to find for everyone else”

My analogy would be that SOPA’s DNS provision is just like David Copperfield hiding the Statue of Liberty, everyone knows that the statue is still there, but from where you’re standing, you’re under the illusion that it’s disappeared, and the rest of the world, standing outside of the illusion zone can still see it. Indeed, SOPA really is about hiding liberty for Americans, while pretending to the outside world that she’s still there holding up her shiny torch for the rest of the world.

Here is a link to a CNET FAQ article, How SOPA Would Affect You, that continues to be updated frequently.

What is DNS blocking?

This current version of the legislation would work through DNS blocking. What is that? DNS blocking or filtering is a common method of denying access to certain websites. Here’s how it works.

Each website is hosted on a web server that has a IP address. For example, the IP address for Facebook is If you type those numbers in your web browser, you will arrive at Facebook’s website. Try it –

However, IP addresses are not very user friendly. It’s easier to remember than isn’t it? Therefore the inventors of the internet also created a phone book called the Domain Name System, or DNS.

The DNS translates domain names into IP addresses so that you don’t have to remember random strings of numbers. Each ISP (e.g. Comcast, P1, etc) has its own DNS servers that function as phone books for its subscribers.

Whenever you type a website address into your browser, your browser first asks the ISP’s phone book what the IP address for that website. Once it’s figured out the IP address it will then load the website for you.

With DNS blocking, the ISP is simply removing the record for the blocked websites from their phone book. So when you try to load one of the blocked websites, all you get is a blank screen in your browser because it doesn’t know what the IP address is.

How Did We Get Here?

Here is a short video clip from Public Knowledge describing how it all started and how we got to where we are today,


DNS Dodgeball – How to Defeat SOPA DNS Blocking

Here is the first of what will probably be many, and hopefully endless creative ways to bypass or defeat DNS blocking if SOPA does become law. And if you need any other excuse to switch to the Firefox browser, and even make a small donation to the open source community, read on.

You can get a Firefox add-on right now. A developer who calls himself T Rizk doesn’t have much faith in Congress making the right decision on the Act, so he’s built a work-around for the impending censorship measures being considered: DeSOPA. The Firefox add-on is stunningly simple as the SOPA would function by authorizing and requiring ISPs to block specific domain names (e.g. of allegedly infringing sites. When turned on, DeSopa intercepts URLs, sends the base URL to three offshore DNS services via HTTP, makes a best effort to check that two of them are equivalent, caches the IP for the browser session, redirects to the equivalent URL using the IP, and substitutes out the domain name in the source code with the IP address for future requests.

Firefox, which already boasts an outspoken stance against SOPA, and has already shown they are willing to stand by add-on developers who create circumvention extensions designed to go around measures currently employed by Homeland Security, has welcomed a new add-on, one that is designed to circumvent whatever SOPA website blacklists that are created, provided the bill becomes law.

And Google Chrome users should check out MAFIAAFire Redirector, which will intercept any domain names typed into your address bar and load via the site’s numeric IP address instead. Firefox users can get the same addon under the name MAFIAAFire ThePirateBay Dancing, which is somewhat more complicated than DeSOPA. MAFFIAFire works by automatically directing you to a proxy site which loads the “blocked site”. To the powers that be, who want to stop you, from “seeing” a particular site, it just looks like you are visiting a proxy site… not the blocked site.

It is theoretically possible for Big Brother to try to block proxy sites too, but the proxies used by MAFIAAFire are public and randomly selected; there are thousands of such proxies listed on various sites, if they want to go down that censorship route it’d be like playing whack a mole with thousands of machines and one stick.

But you better get DeSOPA and TOR while you can because SOPA itself could make that illegal. In this interesting article, CNET’s , points out that a little noticed provision of the bill allows:

…injunctions to be filed against “any” person, nonprofit organization, or company that distributes a “product or service” that can be used to circumvent or bypass blockades erected against alleged pirate Web sites such as

The U.S. government-funded Tor Project could be a target of SOPA’s anti-circumvention section.

“It looks like SOPA would outlaw Tor,” says Markham Erickson, an attorney with Holch & Erickson LLP who runs NetCoalition. The trade association opposes SOPA and counts, eBay, Google, and Yahoo among its members.

This section of SOPA is straightforward enough: a copyright holder would contact the U.S. Department of Justice to complain that a Web site is engaged in piracy. Then the Justice Department would seek a court order from a federal judge that would compel U.S.-based Internet service providers and domain name system providers to render the target inaccessible.

But SOPA’s author, Rep. Lamar Smith, a conservative Texan who has become Hollywood’s favorite Republican, anticipated that savvy programmers would find a way around these virtual roadblocks. So Smith inserted language in SOPA (PDF) — it’s not in the Senate’s similar Protect IP bill — allowing anyone who knowingly and willfully distributes “circumvention” software to be forced to remove it. (See CNET’s FAQ on SOPA.)

“I worry that it is vague enough, and the intention to prevent tunneling around court-ordered restrictions clear enough, that courts will bend over backwards to find a violation,” says Mark Lemley, a professor at Stanford Law School who specializes in intellectual property law.

Smith’s anti-circumvention language appears designed to target software such as MAFIAAFire, the Firefox add-on that bypassed domain seizures, and ThePirateBay Dancing and Tamer Rizk’s DeSOPA add-ons, which take a similar approach. (As CNET reported in May, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has tried, unsuccessfully so far, to remove MAFIAAFire from the Web.)

But Smith worded SOPA broadly enough that the anti-circumvention language isn’t limited to Firefox add-ons. In an echo of the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s anti-circumvention section, SOPA targets anyone who “knowingly and willfully provides or offers to provide a product or service designed or marketed by such entity…for the circumvention or bypassing” of a Justice Department-erected blockade.

BUT as SOPA is presently worded, it would still be perfectly legal to OWN or POSSESS any circumvention product such as a plugin or other software. So go get ’em now because people like the DeSOPA plugin writer can be shut down and jailed if SOPA passes.

Stop SOPA Before You Need To Circumvent It -Who Supports SOPA?

Not sure if your congressperson supports SOPA/PIPA? You may be surprised at how little support or opposition has to do with traditional political parties and Democratic/Republican labels.  SOPA Track is a web site that can help you find out and keep track of the activity of the politicians regarding the bills. It can use location tracking to provide the information automatically, or you can look them up by state or search using your address. Doing so will provide you with the names of your representatives, their stance on SOPA/PIPA, how much money they’ve raised from relevant groups, and several ways you can call them to voice your opinion on the matter. Even if they share your views, it’s worth making a call or sending a message to thank them as it’s always possible for their minds to change.

Google Chrome users can pick up the No SOPA extension which reveals which sites support SOPA when visiting them using that browser. If you’re interested in writing a letter to supporters, boycotting their sites, or simply be aware of their support, this extension can help with identification.

Here is an article from the Electronic Frontier Foundation analyzing the economic arguments and forces at play in the blacklist legislation.

Go to Stop American Censorship for more information and a bunch of ways you can take action quickly, easily, and painlessly.


What Next On The Blacklist Legislation?

The U.S. Senate will reconvene on January 23. After the first order of business is taken care of, Majority Leader Harry Reid will then continue the process he started on December 17th of moving PIPA towards a Senate floor vote.  This process is known as invoking “cloture,” which is a rule that allows any Senator to impose a 30 hour time limit on debate subject to three-fifths of the Senate agreeing to end debate.  Senator Ron Wyden has stated he will filibuster PIPA along with Senators Jerry Moran, Maria Cantwell, and Rand Paul and together they will use the full 30 hours available resulting in the cloture vote being held the next day.

Three fifths of the Senate must support cloture (cutting off debate) for the bill to realistically proceed.  Senator Harry Reid is expected to make the cloture motion unless enough opposition arises between now and then.   Many organizations are urging citizens to contact their Senators now to urge opposition.

Now’s the time, when the Senators are home and -maybe- listening, for you to speak up. Go to Stop American Censorship for more information and a bunch of ways you can take action quickly, easily, and painlessly.

UPDATE 1/14 and breaking news: White House signals concerns with anti-piracy bills : ‘Obama administration officials said in a blog post today that they would ‘not support legislation that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk, or undermines the dynamic, innovative global Internet.’ The White House did not take a definite position on SOPA and the PROTECT IP Act, but said ‘the DNS filtering provisions in some proposed legislation suggests that they pose a real risk to cybersecurity and yet leave contraband goods and services accessible online.’ The officials said, however, that legislation is needed to combat online piracy.’

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LinkedIn: Privacy is a Country for Old Farts

[sfwp id=200 img=itemtype.png] Meet [sfwp id=404 img=itemprop.png]Reid Hoffman[sfwp id=2 img=closespan.png], the billionaire founder of LinkedIn.[sfwp id=1 img=closediv.png]In this video, he shares with an audience at Davos at the World Economic Forum, his opinion about your privacy concerns:

This was months ago, but nobody’s talking about it that I can see, so I will.The audio on that clip may be a little hard to hear, but here’s the key comment from the founder of the largest social network for professional people in the world:

 “all these concerns about privacy tend to be old people issues.”

“Old people” issues? Dewd!  And that’s how the founder of LinkedIn feels about your privacy? What’s he – related to Mark Zuckerburg or something?

gif of peeping tom watching someone through a peephole

I'm just watching young people - they don't care

For a social network supposedly for professional people, and with privacy issues especially important in the job search – to say nothing of when the economy is bad, and your company might be looking to cut employees, and you’re trying to make your mortgage… privacy issues aren’t old people issues, they’re normal people issues.

Maybe it’s par for the course that a billionaire founder, speaking at Davos — the world’s most elite  “old boys’ network” event (aren’t most of them old people??), held each year in the Swiss Alps — ridicules our concerns in such a condescending way.

It may be the most arrogant comment from a business executive since Leona Helmsley said “Only the little people pay taxes.”

If you signed up for LinkedIn, they never asked for your permission to sell your information to recruiters and HR departments, did they? They never told you that your actions, and your behaviors, and your privacy were going to be sold off to recruitment firms and HR departments. Even today, their User Agreement makes no mention of executive recruiters or human resources. (I mean, c’mon, if it was all on the up-and-up, they’d mention it to you when you sign up, or at least in the User Agreement or Privacy Policy, wouldn’t they?)

Should you be concerned about the fact that LinkedIn has the legal right to sell your job-hunting information to advertisers, show it in their advertisements, and leak it to your current colleagues or boss, if they want to?

No, you shouldn’t worry about that, at all, says Reid Hoffman, because “all these concerns about privacy tend to be old people issues.”

LinkedIn also this summer drew even more heat over a new form of advertising called  social ads. The ads basically turned LinkedIn users into cheerleaders for businesses. They used individuals’ names and photos to promote products or services that the individuals had recommended or companies they followed.

Here is a good post on how to take command and control of your privacy settings on your LinkedIn profile.

And here is a good post that talks about how LinkedIn has over 120 million users in more than 200 countries (including at least a million lawyers) and Web traffic that ranks it as the 13th most visited site on the planet, with a list of basic do’s and don’ts of creating and building a presence if you want to use LinkedIn.

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