Tag: history

Gab’s Dissenter receives your entire browsing history; bonus: it can be tied to your unique user ID

I fully support the intent behind Gab’s Dissenter platform. The ability to comment on any website is a wonderful move for free speech. What I can’t get behind is the major privacy problem it poses, a problem which unfortunately is very hard to avoid in any “comment on any site” concept.

Gab’s Dissenter stores and retrieves comments by URL. This requires Dissenter to send EVERY URL YOU VISIT out to the Dissenter platform to check for user comments for that URL, and obviously to submit your own comments as well. Since you’ll probably be logged in to Gab to use Dissenter, these URLs may also be sent with your Gab user ID which easily ties them all together. Regardless of what the Terms of Service may say about their data collection and retention policies, there is the possibility that Gab is effectively collecting and storing your entire browsing history while using the Dissenter extensions or app.

Even if they say that they don’t do this sort of collection and retention, you must choose whether or not to trust them. Consider a similar privacy-protecting service: VPNs. Several VPN service providers that claimed to be “no-log VPNs” (meaning they don’t store any information about your activities on their services) have been caught storing logs once police subpoenaed them for logs and they were forced to comply. It’s even possible for data to be retained in places not specifically meant to retain that data; for example, a server debugging log may contain all user requests made during the time period that the debug data was enabled, and that log is then readable to computer hackers/crackers or to law enforcement through a lawful subpoena.

How far are you willing to trust Gab with the data they necessarily must receive from you to keep their service working? It’s your choice. All I want is for you to make an informed choice, not an ignorant one.

It occurred to me shortly after writing this that there is one other possibility, but it’s not really much better. The only other way to do it without sending the URLs directly would be to hash the URL on the client side and send the hash instead, but unlike passwords, an unsalted hash of a (probably public) URL is fairly easy to come up with. Law enforcement, for example, could easily ask Google to provide a hash list of every URL in their database and it’d take Google less than a day to generate such a list. Even a casual hacker could build a simple web spider that follows URLs and hashes them to build that list. It’d be sort of like copy protection: it protects against completely ignorant users making copies, but hackers and pirates will break the protection easily and do as they please. Likewise, any method to conceal the URLs sent to Gab’s Dissenter would only count as obscuring the URL and could be easily cracked. If you think about it, there’s simply no other way to do it: how else can Dissenter know what comments to store and retrieve?

The Old Man’s Pendant II

“The Old Man’s Pendant” was a short film I created as a more involved and complex project to teach myself video editing. Prior to that, the only things that I had created were silly five-second joke clips or music videos spliced together from random things I pointed my camcorder at and polished with crude experimentation in visual effects. After my third (and most complicated) music video, I decided it was time to do something with more structure. Inspired by James Rolfe’s “How I Got Started” story and being stuck at home due to the ice and snow on the roads, I came up with nothing more than a crude idea for a short movie and started recording. I’ll spare you the details since I’m planning to make a documentary about my journey in the near future, but the bottom line is that such a small project which I expected to be finished in a few days at the most ended up taking around four months. It was a completely original work from scratch where I was learning not only video editing but writing and music composition. I also learned first-hand just how difficult it really is to put together a high-quality video project.

That movie was shot in January of 2016. One year later, stuck at home and snowed in yet again, I decided that it would be fun to shoot a sequel. My story ideas were better, my footage was more usable with less silly mistakes, and my skill levels had improved significantly. It’s not realistic to finish the post-production work in a week, but surely I could get it done within a month or two, right?

Instead of four months, this one took six months to complete. It’s funny how that works. Today, the sequel to my first short film went up on YouTube.

“The Old Man’s Pendant II” took so long to finish and was worth every bit of time it took. It is by far the most polished and interesting thing I’ve created to date. My least developed filmmaking skill is music composition, yet I’m still listening to my own soundtrack as I type this! The improvement between the films is obvious. While there are still plenty of things that could be polished in the final film, I try to avoid falling too hard into the perfectionist artist trap. At some point you need to stop fidgeting about with your creation, put it out there, and move on to the next big thing.

I’m very proud of my latest short film. I hope that you find it as enjoyable and satisfying as the process of creating it has been for me. I’ll be doing a documentary about my progress from the first film to the completion of the second one, so stay tuned for that.

If you’re still interested, feel free to watch the official trailer for The Old Man’s Pendant II, listen to and download the film’s soundtrack, watch the TOMP2 teaser video, and check out the behind-the-scenes teaser.

These videos are also available at Vidme: The Old Man’s Pendant II, TOMP2 Teaser, TOMP2 Behind the Scenes Teaser.