Recent Endorsements

You've left us really enthused about the whole digital dimension and we're looking forward to developing our plan with your support.
Simon Beardow - Deputy Director, British Council, Vietnam

Saturday, 22 January 2011

The World's Most Private Search Engine?

SearchingImage by kevindooley via FlickrMost people know that every time they use a regular search engine their search data is recorded. Search engines capture your IP address and use tracking cookies to make a record of your search terms, the time of your visit, and the links you choose.

They store that information in a giant database.  There is in reality a vast amount of personal information about your interests, family circumstances, political leanings, medical conditions etc.

According to this StartPage, this information is modern-day gold for marketers, government officials, hackers and criminals - all of whom would love to get their hands on your private search data.

There is no denying the truth of this statement as and marketers such personal information is extremely valuable.  If you are still in doubt remember the 2006 AOL debacle where three months' worth of aggregated search data from 650,000 of its users was accidentally released, with all the details published in an online database.

Believe it or not, this database is still searchable. Using a tools such as AOLStalker enter a query and find out who searched for it.  Once you have done this click on the "User ID" and find what else this user searched for.

So if I was the manufacturer of say 'Einstein Bagels' and wanted to see who has interested in my product, I could do a quick stalker search and then click on the "User ID" to get a better idea of my prospective customer's other interests.

Social media is also a fertile ground for companies wishing to make a buck out of search.  Try Spokeo, a search engine that uses email addresses to find people across the social Web.

Give Spokeo your log-on information for Gmail, Hotmail, AOL or Yahoo Mail, or just upload your personal address book and  Spokeo will scour 41 social networks and collect all information associated with each email address. Blog entries, Linked In profiles, Flickr photostreams, Twitter tweets, Digg comments, Amazon wish lists - and a whole lot more - all on one page. And every time these people add new content, Spokeo lets you know.

In other words, for under $10 per month Spokeo lets you to stalk these strangers in new and unusual ways.

And as Digital Inspiration points out, should you ever wish to determine the geographic location of someone who has sent you an email (and who you have never heard from before) use a visual trace route tool.

Open the header of the email and find the lines that say “Received: from” followed by an IP address in square brackets. If there are multiple entries, use the IP address mentioned in the last entry.  Copy and paste this into the tool and bingo!

The issue of online privacy refuses to go away but maybe, just maybe, there are alternatives.

StartPage claims to be the world's most private search engine. Under the hood is Ixquick; in fact they are the same beast in slightly different clothing.

The engine's capabilities include an Advanced Search, a global search and power refinement and the integration of a phone directory search is a nice touch.

Picture search presented the results cleanly with image sizes clearly identified

The privacy guarantee from StartPage is their stated promise not to record your IP address. But your chances of becoming the 'Invisible Man' online are in reality remote, as data (e.g. Wikileaks) can always be found or made available.
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Monday, 17 January 2011

A Digital Dark Age?

Data Loss, Inc.Exhibitions of delicate papyrus and early script on animal skins continue to draw huge crowds to museums.

While the aesthetic quality of the artifacts is part of the appeal, their ability open a window to the past through the 'data' they contain is their primary attraction.

What will the museum masses of the future make of our digital age? If some commentators are to be believed they may have nothing to view.

The video below is thought provoking. What happens to all of the knowledge stored with data technologies that will become rapidly obsolete?

It is certainly at risk of being lost and once lost is, in many cases, gone forever.

It is also not simply a matter of backing up as the device or system used could fail with data loss crippling an enterprise.

According to Online Storage Reviews, loss statistics for the last year show that nearly 43 percent of people, who use computers, laptops and other systems, had experienced critical data loss due to one reason or other.

Sometimes, it’s virus infections and at other times, it’s a completely human failure to keep a check on critical data

Is the answer in the Cloud? Online storage solutions certainly minimise the risk and companies such as Box have 73% of the Fortune 500 using their services to share, collaborate and manage content. Box's revenue has tripled since 2009.

Deploying such a back up need not be expensive. Sites such as offer free alternatives which is an option for non sensitive data. has a free option (which is used on this blog - see below).

Simply backing up your business data on a portable hard drive or laptop is unlikely to be sufficient. Winter cold and freezing temperatures can freeze your data, virtually.

ComputerSight says that feeling uncomfortable out in the cold is not a human prerogative; electronic devices like computers, laptops, notebooks, and external hard disk drives share our predilection for warmer weather. Their way of showing this to you might prove terminal to your data.

Despite the risk of catastrophic data failure one in two small to medium businesses, according to a report by Semantic, have no recovery plan in the event of a network outage, data loss, or other IT disaster.

Information Storage and Management: Storing, Managing, and Protecting Digital Information57% of small businesses (firms with five to ninety nine workers) have no disaster recovery plan and the situation is worse than it was a year previously when 47% had no programme for such an eventuality.

"Of the firms without a disaster recovery plan, 41% said it had never occurred to them. 36% said they intend to implement one within the next six months. More than half (52%) said they don't think computer systems are critical to business - that translates roughly to one in four of all of the businesses polled."

In an age of ever violent natural disasters (Hurricane Katrina, the Queensland floods, the Christchurch earthquake - to name but three recent examples) companies are derelict in their duties if they do not adopt a rigorous data audit and develop a comprehensive recovery plan.

It is not a question of if data loss will happen, but when it will happen.  The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that 43 percent of U.S. companies experiencing disasters never re-open, and 29 percent close within two years.  If your business was to lose all of its files would you survive?

The Cloud also currently offers the best solution available to overcome the bugbear of obsolete technologies and hardware.
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