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Privacy-Centric Search Engine Scroogle Shuts Down 128

Posted by Soulskill
from the rock-and-a-hard-place dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Daniel Brandt started his 'Scroogle' search engine because he wanted to provide increased privacy to people who searched online through Google. Unfortunately, while Google tolerated this for a while, they began throttling Scroogle queries. This, in combination with extensive DDoS attacks on Brandt's servers, has caused him to take Scroogle offline, along with his other domains. He said, 'I no longer have any domains online. I also took all my domains out of DNS because I want to signal to the criminal element that I have no more servers to trash. This hopefully will ward off further attacks on my previous providers. Scroogle.org is gone forever. Even if all my DDoS problems had never started in December, Scroogle was already getting squeezed from Google's throttling, and was already dying. It might have lasted another six months if I hadn't lost seven servers from DDoS, but that's about all.' Internet users who made use of the services will now need to investigate other options."
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Privacy-Centric Search Engine Scroogle Shuts Down

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  • And bing? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by zoloto (586738) on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @01:17AM (#39121115)
    If google was "Squeezing" scroogle by limiting queries, why aren't they doing the same to microsoft's Bing?
    • I think Microsoft was screen-scraping its own users, and not running it's queries of its own, or something like that.
      • Sort of (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @04:19AM (#39122173)

        They had a toolbar, if you clicked the 'send anonymous statistics data to Microsoft to improve our services' button then it was supposed to send anonymous stats to MS. However it turned out they were scraping the queries you ran on Google and sending the whole lot, results, the search, what you clicked on etc. back to Microsoft.

        And not anonymous data either. Detailed tracking data, and a unique id that can be used to de-anonymize you.

        It was Carrier IQ in IE form.

        To me what made it worse is they were unrepentant once caught. Pretending it wasn't copying because they took these 'signals' from many sites and the result was merged. Which is incredible face. They didn't even pretend not to be tracking their users, they were proud of it.

        And no prosecution either, nobody chased them, too much clout in politics.

  • DuckDuckGo (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @01:20AM (#39121133)

    They've a clear policy of not sharing or collecting info

    • by Atti K. (1169503)
      Let's hope the same thing will not happen to them.
    • Re:DuckDuckGo (Score:4, Interesting)

      by PatPending (953482) on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @01:29AM (#39121213)
      https://www.startpage.com/ [startpage.com] bills itself as "the world's most private search engine"
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by dragonquest (1003473)
        StartPage is run by the IxQuick [ixquick.com] guys. They are basically the same meta-search engine with Startpage adding Google to the fray.
      • Re:DuckDuckGo (Score:5, Informative)

        by Rick17JJ (744063) on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @04:22AM (#39122187)

        Startpage does not record your IP address or track your searches. The Startpage the results are actually generated by Google.

        Startpage supports SSL. So, when I type in Startpage.com, "https" appears in front of their URL instead of "http." That extra "s" tells me that that encryption is being used between my browser and the Startpage servers.

        The sister search engine to Startpage is Ixquick. If I am not mistaken, the Ixquick search results are generated by various search engines other than Google.

        Startpage also offers the option of viewing web sites through their proxy service. When selecting something from their search results, just click on "view by Ixquick proxy." Then, they only see the Startpage IP address, instead of your IP address. However, I have almost never actually bothered to use the proxy feature.

        Privacy advocate Katherine Albrecht is the enthusiastic spokeswoman for Startpage.

        https://startpage.com/ [startpage.com]

        • by c0d3g33k (102699)

          Correction: They CLAIM to not record your IP address or track your searches. Without verified evidence that this is true, all the privacy advocates in the world can enthusiastically endorse them, but that won't make me trust them any more than the other search engines. At least the latter admit freely they track you, so you can be more careful with your searches.

          • Let me get this straight. A search engine that claims to not track you. (actually it was awarded the first European Privacy Seal by the EU so it's their claim) is actually LESS private that a search engine that stores your queries long term and crossreferences them with your email and social networks to built a comprehensive permanent profile?

            • by c0d3g33k (102699)

              I'm not sure where you got the "less private". What I'm saying is that "trust me, I'm not tracking you" means nothing without proof. That includes experts (or governments) saying "trust them - they are not tracking you". I have no proof that is true, so I am most certainly not going to adopt a false sense of complacency and let down my guard on mere assurances. Back in the day there was a word for that: sucker. Search engines that admit they are tracking you don't lull you into a false sense of privac

          • This isn't for criminals trying to evade the cops. I wouldn't be surprised if 'the cops' can order them to bug specific IPs etc. This is for the legions who don't want a long-lived list of what they are searching for stored indefinately where it might - far in the future, and under unknowable different future circumstances be used against them.

            More importantly Duck Duck Go is a simple way to escape your search bubble. This is a serious problem I've noticed most acutely with YouTube. Your craziness is va

      • I've been using startpage.com exclusively for a couple of years now and I'm very happy with their service.

        As referenced here [ixquick.com], startpage was awarded [european-privacy-seal.eu] the European Privacy Seal.

    • Re:DuckDuckGo (Score:5, Informative)

      by hobarrera (2008506) on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @02:46AM (#39121635) Homepage

      If only the results where competitive with Google's. But they're not, and it's a shame, because I like DDG in principle, but when it comes to results, they're not there yet.

      • I've been using them for about a year. Occasionally I don't get a useful result, so I try Google. So far, I have not come across a single instance where DDG does not provide a useful result but Google does (although several times DDG will produce no results and Google will produce 100,000 totally irrelevant links). I also find the DDG zero-click information contains the result I want for more than half of my searches.
    • Re:DuckDuckGo (Score:5, Insightful)

      by steelfood (895457) on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @03:40AM (#39121919)

      They need a better brand if they want to make it big. I'm not commenting on the service per se. But the brand name itself is a big element in what draws new users.

      It's three words, comprising one syllable each. So it's effectively five units in length of time to say. Not only that, but the hard "K" in "duck" forces the intermediate pause between the first two words, and encourages it between the latter two (attempts to say the name in only three units' time would sound closer to DU-DUCK-O). The pauses in between each of the individual words carries over from speech to mental reading and writing. Both the writer and the reader, are speaking their words inside their heads when they write or read. Which means the brand is both annoying to read and write about.

      The repetition of "duck" makes the URL pretty annoying to type as well. At they very least, they can get a shorter domain that's easy to remember! For other types of products, the need might be different, but for a text-based internet destination, it's gotta be easy to type. They got the "duck" and "go" parts are more or less correct (no one-finger acrobatics needed to type the words), but the repeated duck completely negates the benefit.

      Otherwise, they seem like an acceptable alternative to Scroogle. I've used them before, but Google is just easier to type (the double-o detracts a bit, but the brevity of the name more than makes up for this), so I always end up going back to Google.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        > The repetition of "duck" makes the URL pretty annoying to type as well. At they very least, they can get a shorter domain that's easy to remember!

        http://ddg.gg/ [ddg.gg]

      • by Anonymous Coward

        At they very least, they can get a shorter domain that's easy to remember!

        http://ddg.gg :)

      • The repetition of "duck" makes the URL pretty annoying to type as well. At they very least, they can get a shorter domain that's easy to remember!

        You only need to type the URL once, to get to the front page. Then right-click the text box, select "create search", and follow the defaults. At least, this works for Opera; for Firefox and IE the functionality is the same but YMMV on the UI. The real beauty is that I can use the bang syntax to get results from other popular search engines, so DDG becomes the

      • This post [slashdot.org], posted 2 hours before your's, says that ddg.gg will get you to the same place.
  • by Animats (122034) on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @01:22AM (#39121155) Homepage

    Scroogle is not a search engine. Scroogle is a hosted front end to Google. DuckDuckGo is a real search engine, one with good privacy policies and only one ad per page.

    • by gQuigs (913879)

      And a link... http://duckduckgo.com/ [duckduckgo.com]
      ddg.gg is a short url that redirects...

      They have sites explaining how they don't track or "bubble" you:
      http://donttrack.us/ [donttrack.us]
      http://dontbubble.us/ [dontbubble.us]

    • How are they (DDG) funding their operation then?
      • They had about $30m of VC funding, which will take a while to burn through. They now show adverts as well.
  • by JoshuaZ (1134087) on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @01:29AM (#39121205) Homepage
    I'm really saddened by this. I myself had a few tussles with Daniel before (I was very involved when he tried (unfortunately successfully)to get his Wikipedia entry deleted, and I'm a pretty biased source. During that process, he engaged in some pretty nasty behavior, including posting online the personal details of a various Wikipedians, including some who were minors. In the worst act, he gave the personal details of a female admin to Andrew Morrow, an individual who had made hobby of sexually harassing high level female Wikipedians. In that case, Morrow then, using the data from Brandt actually showed up to her place of work. Daniel expressed zero remorse over this and related issues. However, Scroogle was unambiguously a good thing that Daniel was doing. Daniel doesn't play well with others, and in the last year or so, his main feud has been with various elements of Encyclopedia Dramatica along with some of the nastier bits of Anonymous. It shouldn't be too surprising that they really are willing to respond in pretty nasty and destructive ways. The loss of Scroogle represents a real loss of a helpful service. But given that Daniel has now taken down all his domains including Wikipedia Watch which was primarily a list of personal details of various Wikipedians, I do have to see some minimal silver lining. But it isn't sufficient. The internet shouldn't be censored, whether by the government, or by people who have the capability to launch sustained Denial of Service Attacks. There's a real problem here wen someone as stubborn and experienced as Brandt can be brought down by this sort of thing. We worry a lot about censorship from governments through things like ACTA and SOPA, but this sort of thing is functionally as bad. Daniel Brandt's free speech has been essentially curtailed here. Much of that is speech I disagree with, but there's a relevant line attributed to Voltaire about that.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Much of that is speech I disagree with, but there's a relevant line attributed to Voltaire about that.

      Don't feel bad, free speech is OK, but free speech and damn the consequences is dangerous and can be damaging.

      If you are speaking with no intent but to bring harm to others, you're outside the scope of, let's call it "the spirit" of the First Amendment. It was written to uphold the right of the people to criticise their government, not to give safe harbour to malicious people who, quote: [post] online the personal details of a various Wikipedians, including some who were minors

      So you can love free speech,

      • but free speech and damn the consequences is dangerous and can be damaging.

        There is no such thing as "free speech with consequences." Well, provided you meant the government punishing you, anyway. Otherwise, even the worst countries have freedom of speech.

        let's call it "the spirit" of the First Amendment.

        Let's not. That sounds like an awfully slippery slope right there. If you want unprotected speech, a constitutional amendment is in order. And that's difficult to do for a reason.

        So you can love free speech, and simultaneously seek to prevent people from deliberately saying harmful things.

        No, you can't. That's not truly free speech. Even if you think it shouldn't be allowed, speech is still being censored.

        • by jschrod (172610)

          There is no such thing as "free speech with consequences."

          Yes, there is. It is called libel, defamation, and harrassment.

          But judging from your post, you've never heard of these words and their relationship to the 1st amendment. There is no absolute right to "truly free speech". It is to be balanced with other rights of other people.

          • Yes, there is. It is called libel, defamation, and harrassment.

            Then that's not truly free speech. Some speech is being restricted. Whether you or I think that's good or bad is irrelevant.

            But judging from your post, you've never heard of these words and their relationship to the 1st amendment.

            No, I've read the first amendment. I've just never seen those words in it.

            It is to be balanced with other rights of other people.

            There is no right to not be offended (at least not yet), lied about, or any other such thing. Okay, maybe there is, but not specifically mentioned in the constitution as far as I know.

            I still think there should be a constitutional amendment to clarify this nonsense.

    • by Lehk228 (705449)
      if he has managed to make enemies of wikipedia and ED he must be a real winner
      • by 1s44c (552956)

        if he has managed to make enemies of wikipedia and ED he must be a real winner

        Wikipedia is a big pile of political nonsense and power abuse, it can be a very hostile environment if you get involved in anyone's fifedom or run into a power crazy admin. It's amazing that project produces anything of real use.

        I would like to know just what he did to upset the ED people though.

    • And who said the old Internet Flameware/Shit-a-thon was dead.

  • DuckDuckGo (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @01:33AM (#39121245)

    Seriously, DuckDuckGo [duckduckgo.com] has the friendliest privacy policy [duckduckgo.com] around. They don't track [donttrack.us] you or bubble [dontbubble.us] you. They run a TOR [torproject.org] exit enclave, and if you're already using TOR, you can reach their search engine without exiting the onion by using their hidden service [3g2upl4pq6kufc4m.onion].

  • I just found Scroogle this year while traveling in China. I kicked myself for not finding it years sooner. It provided an encrypted proxy for google, exactly what I've always wanted. There is no viable alternative. StartingPage filters a lot of results. Duck Duck Go is okay, but I highly doubt it is as committed to storing as little information as Scroogle was. Tis a very sad day :(

    • by Anonymous Coward

      https://www.google.com

      Try it...

    • by Anonymous Coward

      But - how do you know Scroogle was committed to storing little information? Because they said so?

      • by tapspace (2368622)

        How do anyone does anything they claim to. Trust, brother, trust. And, google has 100% lost mine. I am working on a plan to ditch Gmail permanently, and I'll be done with google forever.

        • by 1s44c (552956)

          How do anyone does anything they claim to. Trust, brother, trust. And, google has 100% lost mine. I am working on a plan to ditch Gmail permanently, and I'll be done with google forever.

          Run your own mail server, it works for most of the old school slashdotters.

          Anything else just leaves you open to the same abuse from a different company.

    • > StartingPage filters a lot of results.

      Not sure if that's what you're referring to, but in the preferences (optionally saved as cookie or as bookmark'able URL hash) you can turn off filtering of search results.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @01:39AM (#39121275)

    Daniel Brandt is a loony. His first tussle with Google started about 10 years ago when he ran a conspiracy theory site and demanded to know why Google wouldn't show his site in the first page when people searched for famous people names. He attempted to start a movement to force Congress to make Google a public utility service and created google-watch! He created scroogle shortly after, to get back at google (it was nothing but a scraper of google results), and claimed that the back-end code was written in C for maximum speed. He even published the scroogle source code to prove it. I remember reading it then and it was a badly written CGI program with several buffer overflows (As a side note, the guy also seemed to be totally unaware of the overheads of running CGI scripts, whether written in C or any other language, or basics of tuning an Apache server. This explained why his site couldn't handle too many requests in the first place!)

  • Yay, script kiddies hurting the internet again! I love when I hear about a DDoS, it just makes me proud of all the hackers out there with SO MUCH SKILL that they can send a lot of SYN packets. Enough with the sarcasm. THIS IS WHY WE CAN'T HAVE NICE THINGS! If you want privacy, stop being immature.
  • make one of those browser plugins ? Like the one right next to the URL bar - they can make sure they don't send cookies, and in that way, Google can never throttle you - it's distributed !

  • by stms (1132653) on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @01:52AM (#39121353)

    Google Sharing [mozilla.org] it works great most of the time. I never used (or heard of) Scroogle but it would have be nice for when I don't have access to Firefox.

  • by tbird81 (946205) on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @01:59AM (#39121389)

    http://encyclopediadramatica.ch/Daniel_Brandt [encyclopediadramatica.ch]

    "I don't regard [Brandt] as a valid source about anything at all, based on my interactions with him. I tried very hard to help him, and he misrepresented nearly everything about our conversation in his very strange rant. He considers the very existence of a Wikipedia article about him to be a privacy violation, despite being a public person. I find it hard to take him very seriously at all. He misrepresents everything about our procedures, claiming that we have a 'secret police' and so on." - Jimbo Wales

    • by jdogalt (961241) on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @03:38AM (#39121907) Journal

      ""I don't regard [Brandt] as a valid source about anything at all..." - Jimbo Wales"

      That sounds like a cut and dry +5 perspective. But being the same sort of person as Daniel Brandt (or at least, I presume the same slashdot commenters calling him a looney would call me one as well), I decided to use non-google search engines, and results not already posted here, to try and make a real evaluation of D.B. I found a long thread he participated in, that was remarkably coherent, and intelligent, about his experiments reverse engineering how google works. Say what you will, but technically, on subjects he is passionate about, he comes off very well. In fact, he's so clever, all he had to do was throw in a bizarre offhand comment such as 'tighter than a bikini on a Bomis babe', and it inspired me to google that, and get this wired article, which IMO should negate the +5 of the parent comment. Jimmy Wales does not come off looking like such a valid source , after reading this- http://www.wired.com/culture/lifestyle/news/2005/12/69880 [wired.com]

      "Public edit logs reveal that Wales has changed his own Wikipedia bio 18 times, deleting phrases describing former Wikipedia employee Larry Sanger as a co-founder of the site.

      Wales has also repeatedly revised the description of a search site he founded called Bomis, which included a section with adult photos called "Bomis Babes.""

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The free spirit of the Internet is being run roughshod over by scofflaws. And, yes, I do include Google in the category of scofflaw.

  • I loved the 100 results scroogle page when searching from the URLbar in Firefox. Here's the about:config value to set keyword.URL to:
    data:text/html;charset=utf-8,%3C!DOCTYPE HTML%3E%3Chtml lang%3D"en"%3E%3Chead%3E%3Cmeta charset%3D"utf-8"%3E%3Ctitle%3ESearching...%3C%2Ftitle%3E%3C%2Fhead%3E%3Cbody onload%3D"document.blah.query.value%3Ddocument.getElementsByTagName('p')[0].firstChild.nodeValue%3Bdocument.blah.submit()"%3E%3Cform name%3D"blah" method%3D"post" action%3D"https%3A%2F%2Fstartpage.com%2Fdo%2Fsearc

  • Here's why [donttrack.us]
  • by tgv (254536)

    I used to use scroogle: Google's search engine is ok, but their privacy policy isn't. But the throttling had become clear over the last two months, so I switched to duckduckgo, as many people. It's not quite google, and I can't "predict" its results as well as google's, but it's quite good, and has some nice features, such as the short content at the top of the page and the label "official site".

    Try it, everyone!

  • setup your own (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Use the Seeks open source project (http://www.seeks-project.info/) to setup a public or your own scroogle... It's also P2P enabled so servers can share results. Scroogle was nice, but you can do it yourself easily now.

  • competition that's using their own search engine? It's not like google is sueing them or anything or telling them to shutdown.
  • https://ixquick.com/ [ixquick.com]

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