This may be of interest.
In a listicle world where even the trivial is quantified, judged, and graded, let’s rank something important for a change: Which web browsers are best for protecting your security and privacy?
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\”Discovery consists in seeing what everyone else has seen and thinking what no one else has thought\”. ~ Albert Szent-Györgyi
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> On 12 Jun 2019, at 5:56 AM, Kentice Tikolo via kictanet <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
> Thank you, Patrick.
> Any insights on Safari?
> Best regards,
> Sent from my iPhone
>> On 7 Jun 2019, at 06:42, Barrack Otieno via kictanet <email@example.com> wrote:
>> Good analysis Patrick,
>> Provides interesting perspectives.
>> Best Regards
>> On 6/5/19, Patrick A. M. Maina via kictanet
>> <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
>>> I recently did a side-by-side comparison of several mainstream (and some
>>> emerging browsers e.g. Brave) and found Firefox to be the least intrusive of
>>> the better browsers.
>>> Using a network traffic monitor, I peeked under the hood to see what the
>>> browsers were secretly doing in the \”background\” and lo-and-behold, Chrome
>>> was so aggressive that it looked like a data-harvesting malware, even with
>>> add-ons and extensions disabled. I did some research on it and noted that
>>> users who had raised similar issues (several years earlier) had apparently
>>> been stonewalled for some reason. This led to a prompt and permanent
>>> uninstall of Chrome on that device.
>>> Surreptitious data harvesting is problematic because it enhances online
>>> risks (e.g. risk of \”spear phishing\” attacks, as well as theft of business
>>> trade secrets – including theft by inference). This should be of concern to
>>> emloyees, enterpreneurs and government workers. So why aren\’t users
>>> switching in droves to less intrusive browsers?
>>> I have two hypotheses about this:
>>> 1. Privacy awareness campaigns don\’t appear to be strategically
>>> contextualized and/or targeted. For example, the word \”privacy\” has a
>>> personal activity context connotation and may not trigger alarm bells in
>>> official contexts. I think words like \”spying\” or \”snooping\” or \”stealing\”
>>> need to be used a lot more as they convey, with far greater clarity, the
>>> idea of surreptitious activity and/or motives, while instilling a sense of
>>> urgent need for action.
>>> 2. Alternative browsers have to overcome network effects (and build their
>>> own). This requires long-game strategies that, on casual inspection, don\’t
>>> appear connected to browser adoption / lock-in. The strategy has to align
>>> with (and leverage) anthropological insights as well.
>>> Let\’s use Chrome as an example:
>>> Chrome users are locked-in to Google\’s strong network effects, which exist
>>> at the Android ecosystem level (developers, tech support, advertisers and
>>> Google works hard to grow/maintain its dev community by offering a vast
>>> array of tools as well as monetization opportunities. Google\’s secret value
>>> proposition across all their products is… wait for it… \”success\”.
>>> Once onboarded, cool, proprietary (but apparently inconsequential) features
>>> tempt devs to tailor their webapps towards Chrome as the \”main\” browser and,
>>> slowly but surely, dev lock-in creeps in. The difference between Google and
>>> Microsoft in terms of dev lock-in strategy is that Google\’s approach is more
>>> subtle: it doesn\’t cause hard breaks in functionality on different browsers
>>> (which would be a big no-no for devs – it only degrades it.. quietly passing
>>> the UX pain to end users as \”punishment\” for using the \”wrong\” browser).
>>> This leads to \”works best on Chrome\” advisories on millions of help pages /
>>> documentation, which in turn *heavily* influences end-user (and tech
>>> support\’s) preferences and more importantly, perceptions about quality and
>>> performance advantage. It\’s like a massively viral reverse ad campaign where
>>> the advertisers pay you to advertise *your* product.
>>> Humans are creatures of habit and consistency. So the browser you use more
>>> frequently (or at work) is likely the one you\’ll want to use on your
>>> personal devices. Soon the user starts \”advising\” others on which browser is
>>> \”best\” (more free marketing). This reinforces the user\’s own perception of
>>> preferences, boosting perceived loyalty and making it even harder to switch
>>> even when the browser has issues the user doesn\’t like (cognitive
>>> I noticed this effect on myself when switching from IE (after almost two
>>> decades) to Chrome, and a few years later, from Chrome to Firefox. Switching
>>> is hard.
>>> To get users to change their browser habits, it makes sense to target the
>>> dev & support ecosystem agressively with a different value proposition (i.e.
>>> \”success\”). This could mean being more flexible and pragmatic on certain
>>> core philosophies like FOSS, which pushes poor/hungry/enterpreneurial
>>> developers into the arms of monetized platforms. Food is no longer FOSS
>>> (unfortunately)… people need money to eat, and bills have to be paid. FOSS
>>> values are noble and important, but they become elitist when implemented as
>>> universal dogma without regard to economic context (e.g. for devs in low
>>> income countries).
>>> Legal and policy tools have to be leveraged as well. Google rode on
>>> antitrust regulations, for example, to penetrate Microsoft\’s IE moat and
>>> give chrome a chance on the PC (they then cheekily went on to do what
>>> Microsoft had been penalized for doing, with their inbuilt OS integrated
>>> Slightly off-topic, but might be of interest to some.
>>> Good day & brgds,
>>> Patrick A. M. Maina[Cross-domain Innovator | Public Policy Analyst –
>>> Indigenous Innovations]
>>> On Wednesday, June 5, 2019, 5:40:42 AM GMT+3, Alice Munyua via kictanet
>>> <email@example.com> wrote:
>>> What if I told you that on nearly every single website you visit, data about
>>> you was transmitted to dozens or even hundreds of companies, all so that the
>>> website could earn an additional $0.00008 per ad! This is a key finding from
>>> a new study on behaviorally targeted advertisements from Carnegie Mellon
>>> University and it should be a wake-up call to all of us. The status quo of
>>> pervasive data collection in service of ad targeting is untenable. That is
>>> why we’re announcing some key changes to Firefox.
>>> Today marks an important milestone in the history of Firefox and the web. As
>>> of today, for new users who download and install Firefox for the first time,
>>> Enhanced Tracking Protection will automatically be set on by default,
>>> protecting our users from the pervasive tracking and collection of personal
>>> data by ad networks and tech companies.
>>> It seems that each week a new tech company decides to decree that privacy is
>>> a human right. They tout how their products provide people with “choices” to
>>> change the settings if they wish to opt into a greater level of privacy
>>> protection to exemplify how they are putting privacy first. That begs the
>>> question — do people really want more complex settings to understand and
>>> fiddle with or do they simply want products that respect their privacy and
>>> align with their expectations to begin with?
>>> Privacy shouldn’t be relegated to optional settings
>>> When thinking about consumer privacy online, I’m reminded of the behavioral
>>> economics studies which led to 401K plans (US retirement savings plans)
>>> moving from voluntary enrollment to auto-enrollment. Not too long ago most
>>> defined contribution retirement savings plans in the US required employees
>>> to sign-up and volunteer to start participating. Participation rates were
>>> very low. Why was that? Was it because people didn’t care about saving for
>>> retirement? Not at all! There were simply too many barriers to aligning with
>>> people’s expectations and desires and the benefits of saving for retirement
>>> aren’t felt immediately.
>>> We are in a similar position with respect to software privacy settings.
>>> Pervasive tracking is too opaque and potential privacy harms are never felt
>>> immediately. The general argument from tech companies is that consumers can
>>> always decide to dive into their browser settings and modify the defaults.
>>> The reality is that most people will never do that. Yet, we know that people
>>> are broadly opposed to the status quo of pervasive cross-site tracking and
>>> data collection, particularly when they learn the details on how tracking
>>> actually works.
>>> We also know that traditional privacy features such as Chrome’s Incognito
>>> mode are failing to live up to consumer expectations. The feature might keep
>>> your spouse from knowing what you’re thinking about getting them for your
>>> anniversary by erasing your history, but it does not prevent third-party
>>> tracking. Our research shows that Firefox users are seeking out privacy
>>> protection, particularly through the use of Firefox’s Private Browsing mode.
>>> In fact, nearly 25% of web page loads in Firefox take place in a Private
>>> Browsing window. The good news for these users is that Firefox’s Private
>>> Browsing mode has long put users first by blocking tracking. The bad news is
>>> that this generally isn’t true for many popular browsers, which allow
>>> tracking even in private browsing/incognito mode. A recent study found that
>>> users don’t understand this and think their data is being protected, when it
>>> is actually not.
>>> As was the case with retirement savings plans, what this shows us is that
>>> the burden needs to shift from the consumers to the companies whereby the
>>> complexity of privacy settings shouldn’t be placed on users to figure out.
>>> The product defaults should simply align with consumer expectations. That is
>>> the approach we are taking in Firefox.
>>> Enhanced Tracking Protection by Default
>>> As stated above, new Firefox users will have strong privacy protection from
>>> the moment they install. We also expect to deliver the same functionality to
>>> existing users over the coming months. Because we are modifying the
>>> fundamental way in which cookies and browser storage operate, we’ve been
>>> very rigorous in our testing and roll-out plans to ensure our users are not
>>> experiencing unforeseen usability issues. If you’re already using Firefox
>>> and can’t wait, you can turn this feature on by clicking on the menu icon
>>> marked by three horizontal lines at the top right of your browser, then
>>> Content Blocking. Go to your privacy preferences and click on the Custom
>>> option on the right side. Mark the Cookies checkbox and make sure that
>>> “Third-party trackers” is selected. To learn more about our privacy and
>>> security settings and get more detail on what each section — Standard,
>>> Strict, and Custom — includes, visit here.
>>> For existing users, go to your privacy preferences and click on the Custom
>>> option, ark the Cookies checkbox
>>> If you are new to Firefox, we’d love for you to give it a try. Download the
>>> latest version here.
>>> When it comes to privacy, default settings matter! We hope that the actions
>>> we are taking can ultimately compel change in the industry. Afterall,
>>> consumers deserve better.
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>> Barrack O. Otieno
>> Skype: barrack.otieno
>> PGP ID: 0x2611D86A
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> The Kenya ICT Action Network (KICTANet) is a multi-stakeholder platform for people and institutions interested and involved in ICT policy and regulation. The network aims to act as a catalyst for reform in the ICT sector in support of the national aim of ICT enabled growth and development.
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