The Lion and the Duck: a fable for an increasingly intrusive internet

I mentioned the duck, the other day. Now I want to talk about the lion.

The duck is DuckDuckGo, an alternative search engine that doesn't track you and doesn't spoonfeed you.

When you search on Google, Google tracks and analyses everything you say, to create a profile of you - a virtual you that lives inside its artificial intelligence.

This virtual you is used by Google and their partners to sell stuff to you. First, they sell your virtual you, then they sell stuff to you by using the virtual you. What other uses will they have for the virtual you in the future?

And it's not just what you type into the Google search box, either. It's everything you say into Google Now. It's every email you send and receive in Gmail. It's every video you watch and every comment you write on YouTube. It's everywhere you travel with Google Maps (and Waze, I would presume). You get the idea.

Anecdotal accounts of people getting served with ads for stuff they talked about only in offline conversations have also made their way around the net. Your phone is listening to you, in other words. (The tech giants deny this and it is yet to be proven.)

Google also spoonfeeds you search results that it thinks you are most likely to click on, based on the virtual you. So you keep seeing entertainment, shopping and political values that mirror and amplify your own. You don't get an unbiased picture of the world, but you get what Google thinks you should see.

Why were so many people surprised by the 2016 US presidential election results, for example? Because Google and other big media presented a representation of reality that was not in tune with the true reality on the ground. If you keep searching only on Google, you're getting an increasingly skewed representation of reality. This does not aid good decision-making.

DuckDuckGo aims to solve these search problems by:

  1. Not tracking you, and
  2. Showing you unfiltered results.

The duck takes the virtual you out of the equation and serves up search results based on the search words you use - not according to an eerily detailed psychological profile of you in an AI database somewhere.

That's the duck. What's the lion?

The lion is Brave, a new web browser that takes the privacy ball and runs further with it.

Where DuckDuckGo seeks to repair search, Brave seeks to repair all of browsing. The duck blocks the spooks from stalking you as you search. The lion stops the spooks from following you as you browse all of the web.

"The new Brave browser blocks the ads and trackers that slow you down, chew up your bandwidth, and invade your privacy. Brave even lets you contribute to your favorite creators automatically." -*

Brave blocks all ads and trackers, resulting in a page load time that's two to eight times faster on popular news sites, for example.

Beyond the time savings, though, it's saving you from having a virtual you imprisoned in Google's AI.

And while it blocks ads, Brave has a blockchain payment system that can automatically reward the creators whose videos and words you consume, with cryptocurrency micropayments. Brave runs on the Basic Attention Token (BAT), a token that uses the Ethereum blockchain - the second biggest gorilla of crypto.

Technicalities aside, what it means is that the more media you consume, the more that media creator will receive micropayments of internet money.

What's more, Brave is based on Chromium, the same open source browser that Google Chrome is based on. So, virtually all the extensions that you use with Chrome will work on Brave without a hitch. (That's been my experience so far.)

It's time for a Brave new browser.*


*Download Brave from this special link and I'll get some BAT. To begrudge me of this BAT, use this plain link:

You'll only receive email when they publish something new.

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