Google launched its Vulnerability Reward Program last November 2011 to encourage programming whizzes and IT experts to forward information on bugs they find on any of the search giant’s online services. This includes all of the content in these Google-owned domains: *.google.com, *.youtube.com, *.blogger.com, and *.orkut.com.
Google recently updated the terms of the program, adjusting the rates of the financial rewards that bug reporters get for informing them about security holes and vulnerabilities. The top bounty that was offered during the first year of the program was a mere $3,133.70. Now this figure has been multiplied six times over and bumped up to a whopping $20,000.
Google is like Big Brother sometimes. They crawl through all of the sites on the Internet, index pages, documents, and images to make them searchable, and take pictures from space and from their truck on the road for Google Maps and Google Earth images.
And apparently, they’re also listening in on your unencrypted WiFi transmissions and getting access to your personal information, bank records, and private messages in the process.
Does Tim Berners-Lee, the man credited for inventing the Internet, have anything against Facebook, Google, and Twitter? I personally don’t think he does, although Berners-Lee does have a lot to say about the data that these networks and online giants are keeping on their users.
As you probably already know, your data is valuable as it is personal. But this is the same data that you’re using to make the ultimate trade off in order to use these supposedly free online services and social networks.
If you know much about online piracy, or you just keep up to date on the legality of the web, then you’ve probably heard of Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and its proposed follow up act, the Protect IP Act (PIPA). SOPA was shut down, thanks mostly to the grass roots efforts of millions of end users of the webs favorite sites, and soon PIPA is going to be facing a similar challenge. On the bright side it already has some pretty vocal critics.
Just in case you’ve been living under a rock PIPA is a law originally introduced on May 12, 2011, by Senator Patrick Leahy, general enemy of Internet freedom, that is painfully similar to SOPA and is designed to help the makers of movies and other digital content to stop the distribution of illegal copies of movies. The law would put the responsibility entirely on the site owners to deal with their content and apply some fairly harsh penalties. Here is an excerpt from the bill that shows how ominously broad this bill could be.
“The PROTECT IP Act says that an “information location tool shall take technically feasible and reasonable measures, as expeditiously as possible, to remove or disable access to the Internet site associated with the domain name set forth in the order”. In addition, it must delete all hyperlinks to the offending “Internet site”
The bill, which will cost the government an estimated to cost about 47 million dollars to create a division of federal agents who would be devoted specifically to making sure that every site on the web is enforcing censorship on their sites.
One of the most vocal critics is Sergey Brin, who you probably know best as one of the co-founders of the search giant Google, who has already gone on record in an interview with the Guardian newspaper, a U.K. publication and said some interesting things about the proposed PIPA Law. Interestingly enough his best points were not about the morality of an open web, but about making the best possible business case.
Brin told a reporter, “I haven’t tried it for many years but when you go on a pirate website, you choose what you like, it downloads to the device of your choice and it will just work – and then when you have to jump through all these hoops (to buy legitimate content), the walls created are disincentives for people to buy.”
So the question is, do you agree with Sergey or do you disagree?
Somewhere at the back of your head, you might be aware of the fact that most of the sites you use or visit keep track of your every move. Your browser’s history doesn’t count for the reason that this data is stored on your local machine. No, what I’m talking about is the virtual trail that you leave behind while you’re checking your email or filling up your shopping cart in an online store.
Normally, users aren’t privy to this information, even though they’re the ones who generated this data in the first place. However, Google is looking to change this by letting users in on their virtual footprints with Google Account Activity.
Over the years, Google has grown to become a force to be reckoned with. What began as a research project eventually became the world’s most popular search engine, leading to the formation of a multi-national corporation that now deals with cloud computing and advertising technologies aside from Internet search.
One thing that’s been growing alongside Google in the last couple of years is privacy concerns. Because the web gives the illusion that individuals and corporations are somehow faceless entities, other opportunistic parties have crossed that privacy line again and again when it comes to collecting, sharing, and using their customers’ personal information.