The Privacy App That’s Challenging Google

Everyone is concerned about privacy these days. With the Snowden revelations coming out that the NSA had been spying on Americans’ digital behavior and activity, and were allegedly partnering with such internet companies as Google, people have been concerned about privacy solutions to keep themselves protected from prying eyes.

Disconnect, a San Francisco-based startup, specializes in building software that can cut off intrusive advertisers from grabbing user’s data, and protect web activity with encryption. However, the average Android user won’t have heard much about it, not through Google anyway. Google has removed the tool from it’s Google Play application marketplace.

The startup isn’t backing down in it’s fight for protecting people’s privacy, though. The young firm, who’s CTO is ex-NSA engineer Patrick Jackson, has been wrestling with Google over the past year to get it’s app back on the Google Play marketplace, in an effort to get more Android users the ability to protect themselves from government snoops and digital criminals. While it’s pretty much a losing fight, Disconnect won’t let Google slow it down. Yesterday, Disconnect launched a completely refreshed application that does a lot to protect data by encrypting communications, routing traffic through different servers across the globe, filtering out more than 5,000 “invasive” services, and much more.

All things considered, at the end of the day it’s a VPN software – though it has plenty of bells and whistles. It isn’t particularly pricey in the grand scheme of downloadable software prices: the full desktop and phone application that covers up to three devices comes at $5/month, or $50/year. Some pieces will continue to be free of charge, such as the tracking visualization browser add-on.

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Disconnect has some significant voices in the security industry on its side. Blackphone – a privacy-specific smartphone based on a forked version of Andriod – has made it a standard install on each of it’s units. And the “next generation” version will come pre-installed on future Blackphones. Disconnect isn’t the only company with this kind of product and service, it’s just the first major one to have an established partnership with a secure phone maker. Disconnect has also announced another significant partnership with German ISP giant Deutsche Telekom, who is offering a special promotion to their customers, allowing them to try Disconnect Premium features free for a year.

The company itself isn’t only in the business of pushing products on the privacy-concerned consumers, as it explains. CEO Casey Oppenheim is of the belief that Google doesn’t want Disconnect in its Google Play store because the app educates consumers about how advertisers collect people’s digital data and that the software allows users to block them. Basically, it’s shining a light on the existence of the option to not be tracked digitally. In September, things came to a crescendo when Google sent a letter directly to Disconnect informing it the app would no longer be available for purchase or download on it’s marketplace. It apparently broke one of Google’s cardinal rules: you cannot interfere with other apps “in an unauthorized manner.” However, Disconnect is in perfectly good standing on other platforms, including Apple’s iOS marketplace.

You could look at this more cynically and make the conclusion that Google’s pulling of Disconnect from it’s marketplace is an effort in self-preservation, in that Google relies on advertisers to make revenue, no matter how intrusive they are. Essentially, in a scenario where privacy and security conflicts with Google’s business model, Google will choose the business model. This isn’t a revelation really; any company would behave exactly the same way. People don’t want to believe that Google is like every other corporation, but in reality it is.

Disconnect is aggressively pursuing being welcomed back into the Google Play store again at some point, though it’s possible to tinker with Android settings to allow downloads from unauthorized developers (warning: do not do this, it could badly harm your device as well as open you up to malicious developers as well as helpful ones). Though, it’s re-introduction to Google’s application marketplace is predicated mainly on Google updating it’s outdated user agreement before that happens.

The only question remaining is why Apple and not Google? It’s hard to say. Maybe Apple considers privacy to be more valuable to it’s success than Google. But, given that the public has ben increasingly upset with Google for it’s alleged collusion with the NSA, it’s probably in the tech giant’s best interest to lift it’s ban and give its users the option of flying under the radar if they choose too.

from Douglas MacFaddin’s Tech Market Page http://ift.tt/116ONT0

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Published by: Doug MacFaddin

Douglas Willis MacFaddin was born June 16, 1961 in the Miamisburg Hospital to Patricia Ann MacFaddin and Richard Willis MacFaddin. My mother’s maiden name is Morrison and she is the youngest of seven children who were raised in Lycippus, PA. My father was the second of four children and was a twin. He was raised in the town of Viola, DE. At the time of my birth, my father worked at the Mound Laboratories in Miamisburg, Ohio in research. Mound was an Atomic Energy Commission facility for nuclear weapon research during the Cold War. My mother made a home for our family. My father passed away in 1991 and my mother is currently living in Avon, CT. Doug MacFaddin is the oldest of five children (Doug, R. Stuart, Anne Marie, Megan and Mary (Heather)). I lived in Ohio for two years, spent the next seven years in Murrysville, PA (outside of Pittsburgh), moved to Little Silver, NJ and relocated my senior year in high school to Avon, CT. My four siblings currently live with their families in Avon, CT and are members of St. Ann’s Church. I attended Mother of Sorrows School in Murrysville, PA. In NJ, I attended Little Silver Point Road School, Markham Place School and Christian Brothers Academy (CBA) in Lincroft, NJ for three years. My senior year, I attended Avon High School and I then spent the next four years at Union College, Schenectady, NY. I received a BS in Industrial Economics and graduated in June 1983. While at Salomon Brothers, I was asked to attend a two-week seminar for Public Finance at the University of Michigan in 1986. In Little Silver, I was involved in Troop 126 where I achieved the rank of Life Scout and was both a Patrol Leader and a Senior Patrol Leader. I also was an alter boy at St. James Catholic Church and spent summers a the Ship Ahoy Beach Club in Seabright, NJ and caddying at the Rumson Country Club. At Christian Brothers Academy, I wrestled for the varsity squad for three years. I took second in the districts my junior year and went on to the regionals. I also ran on their cross country team freshman year and was part of the CBA Colt team that hasn’t lost a duel meet since 1973. My senior year at Avon, I won the wrestling States (S). I went on to wrestle at Union College and qualified for the Div III nationals twice (1981, 1982) and was co-captain both years. My senior year at Avon, CT, I also won the States (S) in pole vaulting. It was the first time Avon High School had a state champ in two sports in the same year. During my four years, I earned nine varsity letters between wrestling, track and football. In 1979, I was accepted into The National Honor & Merit Scholars Society. Upon graduating from Union College, I accepted a position at Salomon Brothers Inc in August 1983. I was an analyst in their Public Finance department at One New York Plaza. I lived in Park Slope, Brooklyn and spent the next four years working at Salomon Brothers. As a result of Black Monday, October 19, 1987 the Public Finance Department of Salomon Brothers was jettisoned to conserve capital. By November 1, 1987, I was working at Dean Witter Reynolds in the new Public Finance Department made up of many of my former Salomon Brother’s colleagues. The new Department was located on the 57th floor of 2 World Trade Center.

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