Citizens' Issues
Privacy tools: How to safely browse the web

In the course of writing her book, Dragnet Nation, ProPublica reporter Julia Angwin tried various strategies to protect her privacy. In this blog post, she distills the lessons from her privacy experiments into useful tips for readers.

One of the easiest and simplest things you can do to protect your privacy is to be a smarter Web browser.

This is surprisingly difficult because most popular Web browsing software is set up to allow users to be tracked by default. The reason is simple economics – you don’t pay for Web browsing software, so the companies that make it have to find other ways to make money.

The most egregious example of this conflict came in 2008 when Microsoft’s advertising executives helped quash a plan by the engineers to build better privacy protections into the Internet Explorer 8 Web browser. Microsoft has since added additional protections – but they are not turned on by default. The situation is no better at Google, whose Chrome Web browser has “buried and discouraged” the “Do Not Track” button, and is pioneering the use of new tracking technology that cannot be blocked. And it’s worth noting that the other big Web browser maker, Mozilla Corp., receives 85 percent of its revenues (PDF) from its agreement to make Google the default search engine on Firefox.

Even worse, many of the tools that Web browsers offer to protect privacy are not effective. Tracking companies have refused to honor the “Do Not Track” button. And Google Chrome’s “Incognito” mode and Internet Explorer’s “InPrivate Browsing” mode won’t protect you from being tracked. Those settings simply prevent other people who use your Web browser after you to see where you’ve been online.

And so, in order to prevent the most common types of tracking, I ended up loading up my Web browser – Mozilla’s Firefox – with a bunch of extra software. It sounds like a lot of work, but most of this software can be installed in a few minutes. Here’s what I used:

I installed “HTTPS Everywhere,” created by the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Tor Project. This tool forces your Web browser to use encrypted Internet connections to any website that will allow it. This prevents hackers – and the National Security Agency – from eavesdropping on your Internet connections.

I also installed Disconnect, a program created by former Google engineer Brian Kennish, which blocks advertisers and social networks, such as Facebook and Twitter, from tracking which websites you visit.

And finally I set my default search engine to be DuckDuckGo, a search engine that doesn’t store any of the information that is automatically transmitted by your computer — the IP address and other digital footprints — so DuckDuckGo has no way to link your search queries to you. That means DuckDuckGo won’t auto-complete your search queries based on your previous searches or based on your physical location, as Google does. So you’ll have to be a little smarter about your searches, and remember to bookmark the pages that you visit often, to save time.

After browsing with my ungainly setup for nearly a year, I found a Web browser that had all the features I wanted built in — called WhiteHat Aviator. It has built-in HTTPS Everywhere, it doesn’t retain or sell your online activity, and it uses Disconnect to block trackers from advertisers and social media companies. Its default search engine is DuckDuckGo.

It’s built by a computer security firm called WhiteHat Security, but it hasn’t been audited by any computer security experts yet, as far as I can tell. So use it at your own risk (and currently you can only use it on the Mac OSX operating system). But I’ve been using it for a few months, and after some bugginess in the beginning, I’ve started to enjoy the unusual feeling of having privacy as a default setting.



Sensex, Nifty may move up further: Wednesday closing report

Nifty may continue to rally if it manages to keep itself above 6,280

On Tuesday we mentioned that both BSE Sensex and NSE Nifty may try to move up again though Nifty’s resistance at 6,300-6,315 is quite strong. On Wednesday, Nifty hit this resistance in the morning, went down sharply and then rallied again to cross this resistance. The market has some more steam left as long as Nifty stays above 6,280.


A strong rally in the US on Tuesday and Asian markets today, plus World Bank raising its global growth forecasts puts the bulls back in saddle. The Sensex closed at it highest since 9 December 2013 while the Nifty closed at its highest since 10 December 2013. The Sensex opened at 21,091 hitting its intra day low almost at the same level. It reached 21,303 and closed at 21,289 (up 257 points or 1.22%) while the Nifty opened at 6,266 and hit a low of 6,265. The Nifty moved up to hit the high of 6,325 and closed at 6,321 (up 79 points or 1.27%). The NSE recorded a higher volume of 59.43 crore shares.


Except for Media (down 0.42%) all the other indices on the NSE closed in the positive. The top five gainers were PSU Bank (1.88%); Finance (1.84%); Bank Nifty (1.61%); Infra (1.54%) and Dividend Opportunities (1.36%).


Of the 50 stocks on the Nifty, 45 ended in the green. The top five gainers were UltraTech Cement (3.76%); Bank of Baroda (3.63%); Sesa Sterlite (2.96%); N M D C (2.78%) and PNB (2.64%). The only five losers were Ranbaxy (2.30%); Cairn (1.35%); Lupin (0.70%); B P C L (0.29%) and Sun Pharma (0.27%).


Of the 1,510 companies on the NSE, 751 companies closed in the positive, 675 companies closed in the negative, 84 companies closed flat.


The wholesale price index climbed an annual 6.16% last month, its slowest pace since July 2013. The pace of gains in December was tempered by a softening in vegetable prices that fell nearly 30% from November, bringing down overall food inflation for the month to 13.68% from 19.93% a month ago.


India's fiscal deficit will be contained at 4.8% of the gross domestic product (GDP) in the current fiscal year ending March, the finance minister P Chidambaram  said, hinting at possible cuts in government spending. The US indices closed in the positive. US retail sales increased 0.2% after a 0.4% advance in November that was smaller than previously reported, Commerce Department figures showed in Washington.


The World Bank raised its global growth forecasts as the easing of austerity policies in advanced economies supports their recovery, boosting prospects for developing markets' exports. The bank sees the world economy expanding 3.2% this year, compared with a June projection of 3% and up from 2.4% in 2013. The forecast for the richest nations was raised to 2.2% from 2%. Part of the increase reflects improvement in the 18-country euro area, with the US ahead of developed peers, growing twice as fast as Japan. At the same time, the withdrawal of monetary stimulus in the US may raise market interest rates, hurting poorer countries as investors return to assets such as Treasuries, according to the bank.


Except for Shanghai Composite (down 0.17%) and KLSE Composite (down 0.60%) all the other Asian indices closed in the positive. Nikkei 225 (up 2.50%) was the top gainer.


European indices were trading in the green while the US Futures too were trading higher.


Bajaj Finance Q3 net profit up 21% on higher interest income

Bajaj Finance reported a 21% increase in its net profit during the December quarter on 33% growth in its net interest income

Bajaj Finance Ltd, the largest financier of two wheelers and consumer durables as well as third largest non banking financial corporation (NBFC) in India, reported a 21% increase in its net profit during the third quarter due to robust growth in its net-interest income (NII).

For the quarter to end-December, Bajaj Finance net profit increased 21% to Rs194 crore from Rs160 crore while total revenues, including NII, rose 31% to Rs1,082 crore from Rs828 crore same period last year. Likewise, its operating income increased 30% to Rs43 crore, compared with Rs33 crore compared with a year ago period.

During the quarter, its NII increased 33% to Rs672 crore from Rs507 crore due to 15% increase in number of customers. As on 31 December 2013, Bajaj Finance had 9.62 lakh customers.

Bajaj Finance’s gross non-performing assets (GNPA), during the third quarter, stood at 1.15% and net non-performing assets (NNPA) at 0.23%. Its capital adequacy ratio (CAR) stood at 19.53% and provisional coverage ratio stood at 80% as of 31 December 2013.


Driven by healthy inflows, the Bajaj group company’s total asset under management (AUM) increased 33% at Rs22,461 crore for the quarter ended December 2013, compared with Rs16,844 crore for the same period last year.

On Wednesday, Bajaj Finance closed flat at Rs1,548 on BSE, while the benchmark Sensex ended 1.12% up at 21,289.


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