Safeweb has turned off their free privacy service.
November 20, 2001 8:45 AM   Subscribe

Safeweb has turned off their free privacy service. Company spokeswoman Sandra Song said "Consumer privacy is more of an idealistic vision..." Is anonymous use of the Internet dying?
posted by tranquileye (11 comments total)
I don't know if it's the death of anonymous usage totally -- I'd pay for a service like safeweb (although how to manage payment while still retaining anonymity is obviously something that'd have to be worked out). It looks more like another example of the failure of free services on the web (see also NetZero, BlueLight). Textads notwithstanding, the advertiser-supported model of the web is not doing all that well at the moment.
posted by zempf at 9:01 AM on November 20, 2001

Although Safeweb was my favorite by far, there are still a few active proxies available here. It's kind of tricky -- pick one, click "Pop-Up Banner," enter the URL, then click, or tab to the Go Button and hit space (just entering the URL and hitting Enter will not work). Some of these are very slow, and a few are inactive, but occasionally, you can get one that wants to play nicely.
posted by Hankins at 9:15 AM on November 20, 2001

SafeWeb was nice... but missed the boat when it came to mainstream consumer privacy. Now, it would appear, that SafeWeb is going to be moving into the enterprise space... which will likely force them into the privacy-invasion business.

As for me, I'll stick to VirtualBrowser. I've talked about it before... but it's worth saying again: it's at least as stable as SafeWeb, and it's only $2 a month -- and I can pay via cash, MoneyGram (which can be anonymous, if you work it right), money order, or -- if privacy, rather than anonymity is your thing -- credit card.

As for the future of ad-ware, I see a slow improvement over the next 2 years... landing us in a more viable position than we were before the bust: enough readership to warrant the ad dollars, and the experience which leads to reasonable expectations.

The free web is not dead. It's on vacation.
posted by silusGROK at 9:38 AM on November 20, 2001

"Consumer privacy is more of an idealistic vision"?
Did Safeweb say that or did their financial backers, the US Central Intelligence Agency, direct them to say that?
posted by O Boingo at 9:46 AM on November 20, 2001

Did anyone know about the SafeWeb & CIA connection? I recently saw a talk on cracking web servers that mentioned that heavily. There has been a history of them working together, and a few cases where SafeWeb gave up information on a cracker in a very short period of time. It was advised at the talk that no cracker worth his salt would ever connect to SafeWeb directly, and instead would always use an open proxy first, then safeweb, to fully cover their tracks.

And does this recent shift to non-free surprise anyone? Total anonymity and privacy is a commodity and has a real value, is there anything wrong with it being a premium luxury?
posted by mathowie at 9:54 AM on November 20, 2001

I don't think that privacy (which is different than anonymity) should be a luxury. Granted, until the market is more saturated with mainstream offerings, folks will have to pay for privacy services... but I don't think that we should confuse nascent web privacy with its future (ubiquitous?) self.

SafeWeb's been in bed with the CIA for a while -- they're just a handful of PhDs, for crying out loud... not a marketer in their midst. So I can completely understand how alluring the notion of getting solid R&D financing was for them.

What's more surprising than the CIA connection is their recent forays into the enterprise space.
posted by silusGROK at 10:20 AM on November 20, 2001

While I think web privacy should be free for everyone, given the ubiquity of marketers and advertisers on the web looking to cash in, I don't think it'll ever happen. People are too valuable to be left alone, so don't expect the doubleclicks of the world to ever let someone browse the web privately.
posted by mathowie at 10:36 AM on November 20, 2001

There is a lot more information to be garnered from people if they understand that the information gathered isn't traceable back to them... if their private data becomes the commodity, rather than their identity.

It's a fine line, I know... but across which a user will find themselves in the driver's seat. And isn't that the heart of privacy -- one's control over their own data?

The problem with the current model is that I can't give information to just one person: once I've given it out, it's out of my control... and I receive no benefit -- no "royalties" -- for my IP, even though the marketplace receives immeasurable benefit.

If the control switches to the user, then the commodity market still exists... but the shelf life of the data collected is finite.

There's still money to be made by folks if a market maker can arrange a seamless switch from datamining and profile building, to relationship making... and true value-offerings.
posted by silusGROK at 10:46 AM on November 20, 2001

Ironically enough the "anonymizers" page at sets an obscene numbers of cookies, one of which is targeted to "" :-)
posted by clevershark at 11:02 AM on November 20, 2001

There's a discussion about this over at /. with some other "anonybrowser" suggestions. They also had a lot of stuff about the CIA connection, but I can't seem to find it now.
posted by arco at 12:30 PM on November 20, 2001

Cavebear's privacy policy has a good take on this stuff. "It is our recommendation to you that you take such self protections as you feel appropriate. And we further suggest that you do not look to protection of your privacy to come from the private sector - that sector's interests are not aligned with yours."
posted by maggeh at 3:10 PM on November 20, 2001

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