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Debu.gs


Dropping Feedburner

Just a quick note to mention that I’m dropping the Feedburner RSS feed in favor of a regular RSS feed. I’ll leave it around for some undecided amount of time, but you’ll want to update your RSS readers to point to http://debu.gs/blog/feed.rss when you can. The URL has been fixed in the nav bar and in the rel="alternate" link in the head tag.

“Why drop it?”

There are a few reasons, but to summarize: Google. This is going to be some opining and ranting about privacy (and possibly choir-preaching); the meat of the content (i.e., update your RSS feeds) is above.

I’m of the opinion that Google is evil, and I’d rather drop Feedburner than make people deal with that nonsense. I’m sure by now that everyone has heard of PRISM, the NSA‘s project to spy on everyone, everywhere. Then there’s the slighly lesser-known MUSCULAR, which is even more troublesome, being a cross-Atlantic project to spy on everyone, everywhere. We can add the fact that Google is super interested in your legal name and keeps bugging you for your phone number to the list of creepiness offenses. There are two problems here, one that the NSA’s actions are a clear violation of the Fourth Amendment protections afforded to US citizens, and another that Google is tracking and storing the data to begin with (meaning that if this data wasn’t tracked by Google, the NSA/GCHQ/KGB/whoever wouldn’t have this attractive target; it’s a target for abuse even if you are not a government, but has apparently proven attractive to governments). To put things simply, even if Google had the purest of motivations (which is incredibly unlikely), Google made itself an attractive target for abuse, and the data it holds has been abused, making them dangerous idiots at best, and in the likely case, a company that takes advantage of the lack of public understanding of computers and security with a blatant and reckless disregard for its users’ safety and security.

Given that Google has a commercial interest in tracking you across their various services, all the way to watching the stores you visit after viewing Google ads, and little interest in disclosing the specifics of what they track and how and almost zero interest in stopping it, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Googling is considered harmful. Of course, others have conveyed why this is a bad idea and a sad state of affairs for the internet better than I have (e.g., Bruce Schneier, Kragen Sitaker, Eben Moglen, among others), so I’ll avoid ranting at length.

Because of all that creepiness and overreach, I started moving off Google services in 2008, and dropped every Google service I had by 2009, in the wake of the Google Buzz debackle, with the lone exception of Feedburner. (Of course, to this day, even after PRISM and other revelations that have come to light thanks to Edward Snowden and others, when people find out that I won’t use Google services or their Chrome browser or their ridiculous Android OS, they look at me like I’m crazy. There’s still plenty of room in my secret bunker for you guys when you come to your senses, so feel free to join me!) Not too long after the PRISM scandal broke, I quietly took out the Feedburner URL, but left it alone for some time without making any sort of announcement.

In a more mundane and less paranoid vein, Google has also deprecated the Feedburner APIs and has dropped their RSS reader. Apparently to push people towards their (atrocious) social networking platform, they’ve lost interest in supporting the (open, standardized, portable, nice-even-if-it-involves-XML) RSS format. (And in the process, they have run roughshod over several other services, apparently learning nothing from the Buzz debackle.) So I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before Google kills FeedBurner anyway.

I’m also far less interested in analytics on this site than most (I suspect). I have some awk scripts that I use to process the server logs, but beyond what shows up in the server logs, there’s no tracking, no Javascript, no cookies.

(Full disclosure: I have some friends that work at Google, but I’m not privy to anything that the public at large is not also privy to, except for what they’ve said about their personal opinions in an unofficial capacity.)

“Why’d you use it in the first place?”

I started using Feedburner because it gave me little graphs, it validated the feed, and it would absorb some load. So there was never a very serious reason.

“You seem to care about this a lot.”

Yeah. I’d like very much for Lubyanka to remain a physical place and not live on in spirit as a terrifying, all-encompassing surveillance state in the West, the East, or anywhere. One of the things my company is working on when we’re not busy with client work is fixing the problems that got us into this Google mess. We might not be the ones to solve those problems once and for all, but hopefully someone will, and the more people that are working on these problems, the better. So I’m happy to devote time and effort to this goal whenever I don’t have more mundane concerns (e.g., “making money to pay rent and buy food”) competing for my time. (In fact, working on this problem is part of the reason we started the company to begin with.)

“This is the second entry this year that is not about Inferno or even really technical!”

Guilty as charged, but at least it’s short! Let me make some money, I’ll get back to you.

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