11.01.19

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Age of Digital Deception: Startpage, Mozilla and the Linux Foundation Are Enemies of Your Privacy

Posted in Deception, GNU/Linux, Search, Servers at 4:53 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

For the time being use Searx, available under the GNU Affero General Public Licence version 3

There’s Whitewashing, Greenwashing & now also Privacywashing
Reference: There’s Whitewashing, Greenwashing & now also Privacywashing

Privacywashing memeSummary: Mozilla’s biggest income source is still ‘surveillance capitalism’ (Google), the Linux Foundation is in the pockets of ‘surveillance capitalism’ (to ‘whiten’ the practice) and Startpage has been handed over to ‘surveillance capitalists’ (System1); the business model is leveraging personal data (secrets) to manipulate/oppress people

Mozilla’s privacy issues have long been documented here. Mozilla loves talking about privacy, but anyone who has paid close enough attention is aware of all those scandals and ‘accidents’ or ‘gaffes’ (i.e. times Mozilla got caught red-handed and then changed course). We covered similar privacy issues associated with DuckDuckGo and recently Startpage as well (System1 took it). What about “Linux”? Well, many are aware of the “scopes” scandal of Ubuntu/Canonical (we wrote about that too) and a few other things, e.g. Linspyware. The Linux world, not to be mistaken for GNU, does not guarantee privacy. It barely even speaks about the subject.

“The Linux world, not to be mistaken for GNU, does not guarantee privacy. It barely even speaks about the subject.”There are ‘fashionable’ buzzwords for spying, along with euphemisms like ‘telemetry’ or ‘data science’ (making these seem like some sort of scientific research project). But that’s not the subject of this post. Days ago we wrote about the Linux Foundation‘s participation in 'surveillance capitalism' businesses, which are also funding it as “members” (clients). So far this week we keep seeing lots of puff pieces and keep stock/track of it all at Tux Machines. This latest one from Packt Hub says that “the Linux Foundation introduced a new policy around the collection and usage of telemetry data.”

“This kind of openwashing merely serves to associate “Linux” with evil.”They mean ‘monetisation’ (exploitation and sale), as the Foundation itself puts it in the site. It’s ‘surveillance capitalism’; it’s a classic! That’s just surveillance being whitewashed by the Foundation and it is embarrassing to Linux. It disgraces the project’s name. This kind of openwashing merely serves to associate “Linux” with evil.

But here’s the most interesting new find.

“Thought you might be interested in this Reddit thread,” one reader told us. Here’s the gist, a System1 “Web Developer (Browser Developer)” job ad (we’ve made this local copy as the ad will vanish one day):

Just ran into this ad for a Web Developer (Browser Developer). Seems like System1, a pay-per-click ad company based in Venice, California, is aiming to take on Mozilla Firefox and maybe even Brave. Here’s an excerpt:

Have you ever build any of the most popular open-source browsers like Brave/Chromium/Firefox?

Would you be excited to the idea of setting up build pipelines for an open source browser?

System1 is hiring a Web Developer (back-end development) to join our team. This is a diverse role that will involve “hacking” on the Mozilla platform, mostly on the backend. You will work with experts who know the Mozilla platform inside-out, while being a key contributor to novel open-source products which already have a passionate and growing user base.

Key goals for this role: Keep a “classic” version of the browser up-to-date with security patches; update components where possible and create better compatibility with legacy add-ons for the newer version of the platform that supports them. Build system work is required for this role sometimes, but that’s one of the fun parts!

Yet one more artefact of the “privacy gold rush.” It’s happening. Eyes open.

The top comment says: “So, is this implying that you get an “up to date” browser in exchange for spying on you? I am working under the assumption that the search engine for this new wonder-browser will be Startpage with modifications to track the browser by some serialized ID embedded in it that is only readable by Startpage, so that only Startpage can identify you, yet they get to collect and sell your profile/personal information.”

“Mozilla’s dependence on selling your privacy is a matter of public record; they keep trying to distract from it by — just like GAFAM — constantly talking about how much they value your privacy.”Another says: “Did System1 invest in Mozilla or another company that already has these “experts” and a “growing user base”? We need to start asking all privacy services if they have new investors/owners and evaluate their trustworthiness. Now that privacy is popular with consumers, even behavioral ad tracking companies may want “in” on the money — if just to “privacy wash” or hedge their privacy invasive services. System1 has already invested in the Startpage privacy search engine, and it seems the Chairman of System1 has bought into some security products.”

There’s lots more in there (17 comments). Very interesting comments.

There might be a role there for Mozilla and others. As one person put it, “I wonder if they’re creating a new browser based on Mozilla? Could they be working with Mozilla or another company? It does refer to “products which already have a passionate and growing user base.” It also claims to have people who know Mozilla inside and out.

“The Linux Foundation now has several projects (at least 3) whose main role is openwashing surveillance at the datacentre. Great for the Linux brand, eh?”“I believe we have to start asking all privacy services if they have been sold or gotten new investors — especially ones that previously worked against privacy in fields like consumer behavioral ad tracking and targeting.”

Mozilla’s dependence on selling your privacy is a matter of public record; they keep trying to distract from it by — just like GAFAM — constantly talking about how much they value your privacy. They don’t actually manage to fool technical privacy proponents, who shoot back at them and shoot down the PR; seeing the above speculation, Mozilla’s Vice President hire from Facebook starts to make sense. Remember that Facebook itself keep talking about how much it values people’s privacy. If only…

The Linux Foundation now has several projects (at least 3) whose main role is openwashing surveillance at the datacentre. Great for the Linux brand, eh?

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