Serious Discussion AdGuard Blog relaunches news digest

Gandalf_The_Grey

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Browser wars, Privacy Day, malicious tracking prevention: AdGuard's digest
Congrats folks! January 28th was the globally celebrated Data Protection Day. Make sure you celebrate it properly by reviewing your online behavior to satisfy the safetly guidelines.

On 26 April 2006 the Council of Europe decided to launch a Data Protection Day to be celebrated each year on 28 January, the date on which the Council of Europe's data protection convention, known as "Convention 108", was opened for signature. Data Protection Day is now celebrated globally and is called Privacy Day outside Europe.

The purpose of Data Privacy Day is to raise awareness and promote privacy and data protection best practices. It is currently observed in the United States, Canada, Nigeria, Israel and 47 European countries.


Of course it's clear that absolutely every day of any year must be a Data Protection day. But the "official" date is quite an occasion to give it an extra thought, to review your habits and practicies regarding personal data safety, to test some new tools, to boost your understanding of the problem. We wish you safe online experience and hope you'll never have to deal with any data abuse!

And now to the meat of the digest.

Topics:
Chrome's high throne becomes shaky
One doesn't simply turn location tracking off
What are popular messengers reporting to FBI?
Apple Air Tag can be used for tracking you
What if the golden era of privacy finally came?
US senators go after targeted ads — and fail
Some good news and some advice
Read the full digest on the AdGuard Blog:
 

Gandalf_The_Grey

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Historically, app stores have very few "friends" and a lot of "enemies". Maybe not enemies per se, but there's no shortage of people, companies, and organizations that have serious issues with app stores. Partly because of the immense commission they charge (30% is no joke when you're a developer who's trying to make an honest buck). Partly because of the monopoly and total control that app stores have over the apps.

As a result, it's more and more often that we hear news about various lawsuits (Epic Game Store vs Apple anyone?) and government initiatives that are aimed at reducing their market dominance. Such initiatives have already taken place in Russia, South Korea, Netherlands. And, finally, the US Senate Judiciary Committee passed a bill that, should it become a law, will drastically change the landscape and force Google and Apple to give up full control on their app stores. This would mean, among other changes, the possibility of side-loading apps and using alternative payment-processing tools.

But I'm not here to tell you how we, as a commercial organization, aren't particularly thrilled about paying the exorbitant commissions. Not because it's unimportant, but because we at AdGuard consider ourselves software engineers first and foremost. Our top priority is to do a good job at developing our software and to bring something new and actually useful to this world. And that's what I'd like to focus on in this article.
As a concept, app stores are decidedly wonderful. They solve a number of problems: it's easy to install an app from the store, lots of things are taken care of for the devs, such as distribution, updates, payment processings. Not to mention that app stores more or less guarantee security and a certain level of quality for their apps.

But sadly, as time went on, app stores' guidelines grew bigger. They weren't limited to defining security- and quality-related aspects anymore. A large number of restrictions of all sorts popped up, and it's often hard to explain them by anything else than the desire to stomp the competition.

We, as a company that develops several apps that all get uploaded on popular app stores, are pressured into thinking in terms of "What can we do that won't get rejected by Apple/Google?", rather than "How can we improve our apps?". How can this approach facilitate innovation?

And to add to that, there are no "rules of the game". No matter how detailed the guidelines are, there's always room for different interpretations. Oh, you've come up with a new feature and you'd like to know if it'll get your app kicked out of the store or not? Tough luck, the only way to check is to spend time and resources to implement it, submit the app for review, and pray to your God. We've become quite experienced in that; not to say that this experience was always positive, both with Google's Google Play Store and Apple's App Store ([1], [2]).

The two biggest app stores have some major differences compared to each other, though.

With Google, you can usually count on your update getting through. However, it doesn't take much for your app to get booted from it at any, seemingly random moment. And when that happens, good luck contacting someone — anyone — from the Google Play Store support. All you will get is a standardized bot response. Not having your app on the Play Store is a nightmare for any business. But at the very least there's an option to sideload apps on Android, so if you really want to, you can afford to create an app that you envision, and not the one that Google wants you to make.

App Store is a totally different story. If the reviewer didn't like your app, and they decided that it didn't follow one of the many App Store's guidelines, you can try to contact them and change their mind. I personally had countless phone calls with App Store review team representatives in attempts to persuade them to change their decision, and despite most of those attempts weren't successful, I am still thankful for this opportunity.

beanen.jpg


But one such phone call has planted itself deep into my memory. Without delving into the unncecessary detail, I was making a point that the rules clause they were referring to could not be appliccable in my case (and I stand by that to this day). At one point the reviewer, apparently tired of arguing, simply replied:

"Look, we're Apple. These are our rules, and we're going to interpret them as we like, all there's left for you is to obey".

Hard to come up with a counter-argument to that. The only thing left for us was to roll back half of what had been done by that point and to publish the app with what functionality was left. And every time I look at AdGuard for iOS I can't help but think how much more it could have been, and it makes me a bit sad.
Don't get me wrong. I don't uphold an opinion that app stores are some incarnations of evil and we should all happily go back to installing the apps manually. But I am also absolutely positive that stores as we see them today restrict the developers and cripple their creativity. And I see no progress in that regard, limitations only go up in numbers, and never the other way around.

I don't think there's an easy solution to this problem, and this article wasn't meant to provide one. In the end, companies like Apple and Google rarely employ random people. They are all highly intelligent individuals and they don't need more advice from yet another developer. I just would like to believe that our story will become another speck on the scales, and it will help Apple and Google understand the developers and their motives a tiny bit better.
 

Gandalf_The_Grey

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Europe declared war on Google and Facebook, Israel declared war on unrealistic ads: AdGuard's digest
It looks like "Old Europe" rebelled against the brave new world of personal data abuse.

The E.U. regulators decided to replace the transatlantic data transfer pact (known as the EU–US Privacy Shield) with a law that would not let Facebook and other global companies transfer user data gathered in Europe to the States. Facebook (a.k.a. Meta) reacted by mentioning this as a potential risk in their annual report. The move could make them "unable to offer a number of their most significant products and services, including Facebook and Instagram, in Europe".

Press reacted by strong headlines a la "Meta threatens to leave Europe without Facebook and Instagram". German Economy Minister Robert Habeck assured that people'd be fine without Facebook and Instagram: "After being hacked I’ve lived without Facebook and Twitter for four years and life has been fantastic". French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said that "life is very good without Facebook", "we would live very well without Facebook", and that "digital giants must understand that the European continent will resist and affirm its sovereignty". Facebook is ready to negotiate and implement data protection.

And it is not only Facebook: back in January "Austrias Data Protection Authority has banned the use of Google Analytics on European websites for violating GDPR norms. Ahead of Austria, The Netherlands voiced the possible ban of Google Analytics. Two weeks after Austria, the French Data Protection Authority (CNIL) followed the lead and stated that GA's transferring Europeans' data to the U.S. violates the law.

"It's interesting to see that the different European Data Protection Authorities all come to the same conclusion: the use of Google Analytics is illegal. There is a European task force and we assume that this action is coordinated and other authorities will decide similarly", the expert notes.

Other topics:
Apple: oops, we did it again
If we have to see ads, let them be realistic
Murphy's law of mobile apps
Your phone can be tracked by a wallpaper
What's the difference between a password and an eye?
Read the full digest on the AdGuard Blog:
 

Gandalf_The_Grey

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AdGuard always keeps a close eye on industry news that affects privacy issues. Google recently introduced the Privacy Sandbox which will largely determine the future of privacy of Android users. And we certainly need to comment on it. This article is a brief overview of the situation made by Andrey Meshkov, CTO and co-founder of AdGuard. Now we are continuing to explore the topic, and a large research article will be published soon. Follow our blog and social media so you don't miss its release.

Google has announced a new suite of technologies called Privacy Sandbox that should (at least theoretically) make Android devices better in terms of privacy. But at the same time, Google is making it clear that they'd like advertisers to keep as many options as possible — and this is a tough balance to strike. Have they managed to do it?

Privacy Sandbox includes several separate technologies. You can dive deep into the matter yourself, but I'll try to describe the key points about each of the new initiatives here...
In general, all these initiatives (excluding Topics) can be described as improving users' privacy in the context of the ad market. But with one very important condition — ONLY those mechanisms should be used.

As for Topics, it reflects the (completely understandable) desire to keep the ability to utilize information about users' interests for targeting purposes. But this technology further expands the scope of that information instead of reducing it.

But even the good ones still leave a bitter aftertaste: de facto Google will become the single entity to control which ads users see on their Android devices. It was partially true before, but only within Google's own advertising network. Now they are looking to directly influence all other ad networks too, and we know that monopolies rarely end up being good for the consumer. We kind of know what is going to be happening on our smartphones now, and there's no guarantee it will stay that way.

This is the trend that we've been seeing for a while now — advertising networks slowly but steadily moving into our devices. Thinking about buying a new phone? Be ready to get your hands on a highly specialized tool for showing ads instead.
 

Sorrento

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I have a (I think) 5 years licence for AdGuard VPN & the issue I have is quite a severe slowdown & (sometimes very) lengthy time to open sites late evening on London server - I contacted support but by the the time they checked it things were OK - This was on Windows & Chrome apps - I gave up in the end - I can't use another server for browsing as many BBC sites I use don't work as they assume I'm in another country - I feel there are better VPN's - No doubt I'll try it again some time?
 

motox781

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I have found Windscribe better at blocking advertisements than either Adguard VPN or the Adguard App.
I don't know why that is exactly!

I have a (I think) 5 years licence for AdGuard VPN & the issue I have is quite a severe slowdown & (sometimes very) lengthy time to open sites late evening on London server - I contacted support but by the the time they checked it things were OK - This was on Windows & Chrome apps - I gave up in the end - I can't use another server for browsing as many BBC sites I use don't work as they assume I'm in another country - I feel there are better VPN's - No doubt I'll try it again some time?
Windscribe does work very well with AD blocking (ROBERT). Very impressive.

Adguard servers are a drag. I gave up also. I like their products, but they got to work on quality servers and more features for thier app such as "Block LAN" and "Use AD block DNS".
 
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CyberDevil

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I've always liked AdGuard products and have an extended lifetime license for their ad blocker, but this is the same case that many people are prevented from using WiseVector because of its homeland. Cyprus is a fake location for simplified taxation, the office and all the developers are in Moscow, Russia. Proofs - Вакансии компании AdGuard - работа в Москве - all vacancies are searched directly in the office, not even an option to work remotely.

Personally, I'm using Hide.me now, not sure about the perfect privacy, but I like the abundance of settings in the application, especially the ability to set your own DNS, where I have entered ControlD.
 
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amirr

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I have found Windscribe better at blocking advertisements than either Adguard VPN or the Adguard App.
I don't know why that is exactly!
How do you setup Windscribe to block ads? Is that simple or complicated?
 

amirr

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I've always liked AdGuard products and have an extended lifetime license for their ad blocker, but this is the same case that many people are prevented from using WiseVector because of its homeland. Cyprus is a fake location for simplified taxation, the office and all the developers are in Moscow, Russia. Proofs - Вакансии компании AdGuard - работа в Москве - all vacancies are searched directly in the office, not even an option to work remotely.

Personally, I'm using Hide.me now, not sure about the perfect privacy, but I like the abundance of settings in the application, especially the ability to set your own DNS, where I have entered ControlD.
Recently I had Hide.me their support is really great and after several days, I requested a refund. The Windows app along with its Android app was not working ok.
 
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amirr

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Windscribe does work very well with AD blocking (ROBERT). Very impressive.

Adguard servers are a drag. I gave up also. I like their products, but they got to work on quality servers and more features for thier app such as "Block LAN" and "Use AD block DNS".
Have you tried Cyberghost? It can also block ads.
 
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Azure

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How do you setup Windscribe to block ads? Is that simple or complicated?
Simpy log-in to your account and configure Robert to how you want.

 

Gandalf_The_Grey

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Apple blurs nudes and lines around privacy, EU goes after ads, Google fixes cookies as Twitter changes hands. AdGuard’s Digest
In this edition of AdGuard’s Digest: Apple scans nudes to protect children, the EU wages a never-ending war on Big Tech, Zoom pays to the victims of its security holes, Musk takes over Twitter, as Google makes it easier to opt out of cookies and hide from the search.
All topics:
  • Apple scales up its nudity-scanning feature, claiming children’s safety is at stake
  • EU on the quest to curb tracking-based ads. Fingers crossed
  • Zoom forks out millions over 'Zoombombing' plague
  • Twitter changes hands and course
  • One click to reject all cookies
  • Google will remove your data if you ask it kindly
Read the full digest on the AdGuard Blog:
 

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The new Google privacy initiative — the Privacy Sandbox — will fail to fulfill its declared goal, that is to offer more privacy to users while benefiting advertisers. The Topics API, set to replace cookies, is to blame. Read to learn why we will be blocking it.
  • Privacy Sandbox is an assortment of technologies proposed by Google to make advertising more privacy-conscious
  • Privacy Sandbox promises privacy protection, but the concept fails through due to one faulty element — Google Topics
  • Topics won’t stop tech giants from collecting vast amounts of user data
  • Topics may make it harder for a single website in a vacuum to identify an individual user, but not for Big Tech
  • Topics will cement Google’s ad monopoly
  • Topics is one bad apple that spoils the whole barrel, therefore AdGuard is blocking it
Read the full story on AdGuard's blog:
 

Gandalf_The_Grey

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Google or Amazon, Apple or Microsoft, the tech giants can collect a lot of data about us and leak it, we all know that. But we are not ready to stop using their products. Voice assistants are one of them.

Ask Siri to tell you a joke or a bedtime story and you won’t feel lonely or bored anymore. If you can't make a decision — ask her to flip a coin. Or add some magic and use Harry Potter spells instead of commands. And for some people voice assistants make life significantly easier: for example for those who have vision problems.

Voice assistants, in fact, make a good contribution to our comfort. When driving a car, you can manage phone calls, messages, navigation, news, bookings etc. hands-free — you become fantastic at multitasking. In smart homes, you can ask your assistant to open the door or switch on the light. You can create texts more efficiently by dictating them. And you can talk to foreigners without knowing their language.

But convenience has a flip side, and voice assistants are a rather sensitive topic. You either are enthusiastic about them — or fear them and try to avoid them at all costs. And there are reasons why. The focus of big tech corporations is not primarily on voice assistants — so data protection issues are often overlooked.
Read the full story on AdGuard's blog:
 

Gandalf_The_Grey

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Privacy-shy apps, DuckDuckGo's duplicity, Google's woes, Mozilla's tradeoff. AdGuard's digest.
In this edition of AdGuard’s Digest: Apps overshare your data, DuckDuckGo flirts with a tech giant, patients sue Google, the EU sacrifices privacy to save children, Twitter launches a game, Mozilla’s having it both ways with Manifest V3, and more.
All topics:
  • Mental health and prayer apps score dismal on the privacy chart
  • Duck-Duck-Go's tracking deal with Microsoft makes industry squeak
  • Surprise, surprise. Google in legal hot water over misuse of data
  • EU may jeopardize end-to-end encryption and privacy with new child protection feature
  • Mozilla solves Manifest V3 conundrum
  • Musk's Twitter takeover may be in limbo, but pivot to privacy is not?
  • Privacy is the new black and Google wants to stay hip
Read the full digest on the AdGuard Blog:
 

Gandalf_The_Grey

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Facebook’s medical data scandal, Telegram, Mozilla's cookies & apps that prey on children. AdGuard's Digest
In this edition of AdGuard's Digest: Facebook is accused of hoarding sensitive medical data, Telegram partners with Google and possibly the police, Mozilla fights trackers, school apps spy on children, Twitter misuses user data as the US moves closer to adopting federal privacy law.

All topics:
  • Facebook tool harvests medical data from hospital websites
  • Et tu? Telegram shares data with Google and possibly police
  • Yummy! Firefox curbs cross-site tracking by putting cookies in jars
  • EdTech products rat out children to advertisers
  • Copy-pasting is BAD, but it's not about what you think it is
  • Pranksters and privacy advocates' nightmare: Indians may soon see caller names by default
  • Twitter: We collect your data for security purposes only.* Only joking.
  • US inches closer to adopting country-wide privacy law
 

Gandalf_The_Grey

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As the name suggests, ad blockers are for blocking ads — you don't have to be a Sherlock Holmes to figure that out. However, we would do ad blockers an injustice if we reduced their purpose exclusively to wiping banners, pop-ups and video ads off your screen. They have much more to offer.
  • Protect your privacy
  • Stop malware and phishing attacks
  • Surf the web faster and save battery life
  • Enjoy clean orderly pages
  • Keep your kids safe and sane
 

Sorrento

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Can't imagine life online without one - When I see others screens I shiver & shake, just looking at Okla speed test sits on other PC's lets you see how many ad's are pushed at you - Actually if sites were reasonable with ad's I may not bother with AdGuard but they are not reasonable.
 

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