‘Soon every mistake you’ve ever made online will not only be available to your internet service provider (ISP) — it will be available to any corporation or foreign government who wants to see those mistakes.
Thanks to last week’s US Senate decision (update March 28: and today’s House decision), ISPs can sell your entire web browsing history to literally anyone without your permission. The only rules that prevented this are all being repealed, and won’t be reinstated any time soon (it would take an act of congress).
You might be wondering: who benefits from repealing these rules? Other than those four monopoly ISPs that control America’s “last mile” of internet cables and cell towers? … these politicians — who have received millions of dollars in campaign contributions from the ISPs for decades — have sold us out.
VPN company Private Internet Access paid $600,000 to run this full-page ad in Sunday’s New York Times — even though they would make a ton of money if these rules were repealed. That’s how this CRA is — even the VPN companies are campaigning against it.
…ISPs can now continue doing these things as much as they want…
- Sell your browsing history to basically any corporation or government that wants to buy it
- Hijack your searches and share them with third parties
- Monitor all your traffic by injecting their own malware-filled ads into the websites you visit
- Stuff undetectable, undeletable tracking cookies into all of your unencrypted traffic
- Pre-install software on phones that will monitor all traffic — even HTTPS traffic — before it gets encrypted. AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile have already done this with some Android phones …
How VPNs can protect you
VPN stands for Virtual Private Network.
- Virtual because you’re not creating a new physical connection with your destination — your data is just traveling through existing wires between you and your destination.
- Private because it encrypts your activity before sending it, then decrypts it at the destination.
People have traditionally used VPNs as a way to get around websites that are blocked in their country (for example, Medium is blocked in Malaysia) or to watch movies that aren’t available in certain countries. But VPNs are extremely useful for privacy, too.
There are several types of VPN options, with varying degrees of convenience and security.
Experts estimate that as many as 90% of VPNs are “hopelessly insecure” and this changes from time to time. So even if you use the tools I recommend here, I recommend you take the time to do your homework.
Most VPNs are services that cost money, but the following options are convenient and free to use, with some limited functionality:
Desktop VPN apps
Probably the most secure, trustworthy free VPN you can install (as of when this article was last updated) is ProtonVPN. It’s made by the folks who also make the most secure free email, ProtonMail (which we also highly recommend)
To learn more about why we recommend this stellar VPN, check out BestVPN’s Comprehensive ProtonVPN Review
Mobile Device VPN apps (smartphone, tablet, etc.)
Opera is a popular web browser that comes with some excellent privacy features, like a free built-in VPN and a free ad blocker (and as you may know, ads can spy on you).
Opera’s free VPN service offers a choice of ‘virtual’ country locations to connect through.
I recommend setting the U.S. as your location for Americans, unless you’re quite familiar with the ins & outs of how VPNs work.
Also be advised that you will likely need to disable your VPN in order to use certain websites or apps.
If you just want a secure way to browse the web without ISPs being able to easily snoop on you and sell your data, Opera is a great start. Let’s install and configure it real quick. This takes less than 5 minutes.
Before you get started, note that this will only anonymize the things you do within the Opera browser. Also, I’m obligated to point out that even though Opera’s parent company is European, it was recently purchased by a consortium of Chinese tech companies, and there is a non-zero risk that it could be compromised by the Chinese government.
Having said that, here’s how to browse securely with Opera:
Step #1: Download the Opera browser
Step #2: Turn on its ad blocker by clicking on the Opera menu (upper left) and going to Preferences
Step #3: Turn on its VPN:
That’s it! You can now browse much more privately than you likely had been.
For secure messaging, you may also want to check out Edward Snowden-recommended Open Whisper Systems’ mobile and desktop app called Signal.
“Many #Windows 10 users are unknowingly sending the contents of every keystroke they make to Microsoft due to an enabled-by-default keylogger. This function has been around since the beginning of Windows 10… If this was ever on while you used Windows 10, there’s no way for you to know that Microsoft has deleted your information…”
George Soros Finances Group Helping Facebook Flag ‘Disputed’ Stories
The organization partnered with Facebook to help determine whether a certain story is “disputed” is financed by billionaire George Soros and a slew of other left-wing funders.
The “International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN)” drafted a code of five principles for news websites to accept, and Facebook yesterday announced it will work with “third-party fact checking organizations” that are signatories to the code of principles.
Facebook says that if the “fact checking organizations” determine that a certain story is fake, it will get flagged as disputed and, according to the Facebook announcement, “there will be a link to the corresponding article explaining why. Stories that have been disputed may also appear lower in News Feed.”
IFCN is hosted by the Poynter Institute for Media Studies. A cursory search of the Poynter Institute website finds that Poynter’s IFCN is openly funded by Soros’ Open Society Foundations as well as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Google, and the National Endowment for Democracy.
Poynter’s IFCN is also funded by the Omidyar Network, which is the nonprofit for liberal billionaire eBay founder Pierre Omidyar. The Omidyar Network has partnered with the Open Society on numerous projects and it has given grants to third parties using the Soros-funded Tides Foundation. Tides is one of the largest donors to left-wing causes in the U.S.
Another significant Poynter Institute donor is the Craig Newmark Foundation, the charitable organization established by Craigslist Founder Craig Newmark. On Monday, just days before the announcement of the Facebook partnership, Poynter issued a press release revealing that Newmark donated $1 million to the group to fund a faculty chair in journalism ethics.
States the press release:
The gift will support a five-year program at Poynter that focuses on verification, fact-checking and accountability in journalism. It’s the largest donation Poynter’s ever received from an individual foundation.
The Newmark Chair will expand on Poynter’s teaching in journalism ethics and develop certification programs for journalists that commit to ethical decision-making practices. The faculty member will also organize an annual conference on ethics issues at Poynter and be a regular contributor to Poynter.org.
Newmark funds scores of liberal groups also financed by Soros, including the Sierra Club, the New America Foundation, and the Sunlight Foundation.
Soros has earned his megafortune in part by short selling currencies and causing economic crises. He is credited with breaking the pound on September 16, 1992 in a day that became known in Britain as “Black Wednesday.” He reportedly made $1.2 billion from that crisis. In 2002, he was convicted for insider trading.
Poynter, meanwhile, has hosted controversial journalism programs in the past, including one that was accused of downplaying the threat of global Islamic terrorism. FoxNews.com reported the course suggested reporters “keep the death toll from Islamic terrorism in ‘context’ by comparing that toll to the number of people killed every year by malaria, HIV/AIDS and other factors.”
The course taught reporters that the term “jihad” means internal struggle, and it discussed what it claimed was the issue of “right-wing activists” attempting to link American Muslims to terrorism.
The section includes the good-journalism tip that reporters should check to see if experts they’re interviewing “have a bias or a stake in the story you are covering.” But then it only cites examples of anti-Muslim groups.
The course in Islam, Fox News reported, was supported by a group calling itself the Social Science Research Council, which has received funding from Soros-financed groups.
In response to the report, the Poynter Institute explained that it created the course “as a tool for journalists who want to be accurate in educating their audience about the religion and culture of Islam, Muslim communities in the U.S., and the distinctions between Islam as a political movement and the radical philosophies that inspire militant Islamists.”
“We believe there is a need to better understand the complexities of Muslim societies and the online course offered by Poynter and Washington State University is a vital resource toward that end,” Poynter added.
“The values underpinning the course are truth, accuracy, independence, fairness, minimizing harm and context — the core journalistic values on which we build all our teaching here at Poynter.”
Poynter’s IFCN code of principles for news outlets, meanwhile, reads as follows:
1. A COMMITMENT TO NONPARTISANSHIP AND FAIRNESS
We fact-check claims using the same standard for every fact check. We do not concentrate our fact-checking on any one side. We follow the same process for every fact check and let the evidence dictate our conclusions. We do not advocate or take policy positions on the issues we fact-check.
2. A COMMITMENT TO TRANSPARENCY OF SOURCES
We want our readers to be able to verify our findings themselves. We provide all sources in enough detail that readers can replicate our work, except in cases where a source’s personal security could be compromised. In such cases, we provide as much detail as possible.
3. A COMMITMENT TO TRANSPARENCY OF FUNDING & ORGANIZATION
We are transparent about our funding sources. If we accept funding from other organizations, we ensure that funders have no influence over the conclusions we reach in our reports. We detail the professional background of all key figures in our organization and explain our organizational structure and legal status. We clearly indicate a way for readers to communicate with us.
4. A COMMITMENT TO TRANSPARENCY OF METHODOLOGY
We explain the methodology we use to select, research, write, edit, publish and correct our fact checks. We encourage readers to send us claims to fact-check and are transparent on why and how we fact-check.
5. A COMMITMENT TO OPEN AND HONEST CORRECTIONS
We publish our corrections policy and follow it scrupulously. We correct clearly and transparently in line with our corrections policy, seeking so far as possible to ensure that readers see the corrected version.
With research by Joshua Klein and Brenda J. Elliott.
By Forbes’ Kelly Phillips Erb
That was the ruling today out of a federal court in the Northern District of California authorizing the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to serve a “John Doe” summons on Coinbase requesting the identities of United States Coinbase customers who transferred convertible virtual currency from 2013 to 2015. Coinbase, which is headquartered in San Francisco, California, is a company which facilitates transactions of digital currencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) had made the request earlier this month (California Northern District Court, Case No. 3:16-cv-06658-JSC) on behalf of the IRS since a “John Doe” summons can only be served by the IRS with federal court approval. A “John Doe” summons is an order that does not specifically identify the person but rather identifies a person or ascertainable group or class by their activities. In the past, that’s included investors in a particular tax shelter or account holders at a defined financial institution: the IRS has made use of the procedure, for example, when seeking information about offshore accounts those related to the UBS investigation.
In granting the motion, Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley found that “[b]ased upon a review of the Petition and supporting documents, the Court has determined that the “John Doe” summons to Coinbase, Inc. relates to the investigation of an ascertainable group or class of persons, that there is a reasonable basis for believing that such group or class of persons has failed or may have failed to comply with any provision of any internal revenue laws, and that the information sought to be obtained from the examination of the records or testimony (and the identities of the persons with respect to whose liability the summons is issued) are not readily available from other sources.”
Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Caroline D. Ciraolo, head of the Justice Department’s Tax Division, said about the ruling, “As the use of virtual currencies has grown exponentially, some have raised questions about tax compliance. Tools like the John Doe summons authorized today send the clear message to U.S. taxpayers that whatever form of currency they use – bitcoin or traditional dollars and cents – we will work to ensure that they are fully reporting their income and paying their fair share of taxes.”
IRS Commissioner John Koskinen echoed that sentiment, saying, “Transactions in virtual currency are taxable just like those in any other property. The John Doe summons is a step designed to help the IRS ensure people doing business in the emerging economy are following the tax laws and meeting their responsibilities.”
The initial request was triggered, according to court documents, after the IRS found instances of tax evasion involving Coinbase customers. To clarify, it has not been alleged by authorities that Coinbase had any knowledge that any of its users might be involved in tax evasion.
Unlike other kinds of financial transactions, there is currently no third-party information which requires separate reporting for bitcoin (think of third-party reporting like the forms 1099 issued by your bank). This, says IRS, means that the “likelihood of underreporting is significant” which is why they are seeking information from Coinbase. Coinbase claims to be “the world’s most popular way to buy and sell bitcoin and ethereum” (Coinbase did not start accepting Ethereal, or ethers, until 2016, so it was not included in the summons).
The IRS is specifically seeking records for Coinbase users who transferred convertible virtual currency at any time between December 31, 2013, and December 31, 2015, with “any U.S. address, U.S. telephone number, U.S. e-mail domain, or U.S. bank account.” Requested records include but are not limited to user profiles, user preferences, user security settings and history, user payment methods, and other information related to the funding sources for the account/wallet/vault. And that’s just for starters. IRS is also seeking all records of account/wallet/vault activity including but not limited to records identifying the date, amount, and type of transaction, names or other identifiers of parties to the transaction; requests or instructions to send or receive bitcoin; and all related correspondences.
The request raised concerns in the tax and virtual currency communities about the scope of the information sought by authorities. Those concerns remain, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see mounting opposition to the government’s request.
For its part, Coinbase issued a statement in response to the ruling, saying:
We are aware of, and expected, the Court’s ex parte order today. We look forward to opposing the DOJ’s request in court after Coinbase is served with a subpoena. As we previously stated, we remain concerned with our U.S. customers’ legitimate privacy rights in the face of the government’s sweeping request.
“Tesla’s new line of energy-harvesting roof tiles are a key part of Elon Musk’s plan to make solar sexy.”
“[Musk] unveiled a range of textured glass tiles with integrated solar cells that are nearly indistinguishable from conventional tiling, along with a sleek update to the company’s energy-storing Powerwall.”
Continue reading: Tesla Unveils its New Line of Camouflaged Solar Panels
“Several human rights organizations will soon launch a campaign urging President Obama to pardon NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, coinciding with the premiere of the Oliver Stone biopic based on his life…”
Continue reading: The ACLU is launching a campaign to pardon Edward Snowden
“Those who want Silicon Valley tech giants to be arbiters of political speech are playing with fire.”
“Avant Garde Innovations, the startup founded by siblings Arun and Anoop George from Kerala, has come up with a low-cost wind turbine that can generate enough electricity to power an entire house for a lifetime. The size of a ceiling fan, this wind turbine can generate 5 kWh/kW per day — with just a one-time cost of US$750.”
“While the device is still far from ready for commercial distribution, Snowden and Huang note that they hope this case study will influence how individuals perceive their personal tracking devices they carry around in their pockets — also known as cell phones.”