Creeping Through Ross Ulbricht's Bookmarks

Friday, November 22, 2013 - 10:22 AM

Ross Ulbricht, the alleged creator of the Silk Road, was denied bail yesterday. Prosecutors also released additional evidence against Ulbricht. The big headline was the allegation that Ulbricht has ordered as many as 6 murders, up from the previously alleged 2.

Ulbricht, for his part, maintains that he is not Dread Pirate Roberts, the founder of the Silk Road, but prosecutors say that he was logged in as DPR when he was arrested in a San Francisco Public library. They released screenshots from that computer.

Of course, whenever I see a screenshot of anyone’s computer, my (moderately creepy) impulse is to scan their toolbar to see what they’ve got bookmarked.

The link that jumped out to me on Ulbricht’s browser was to an article called “The Science of Stylometry.” I’m pretty sure this is the article it’s referring to.

Stylometry is the technique that allows scientists to scan your writing for the tics and particularities that make it identifiably yours. Stylometry was used to out Joe Klein as the anonymous author of Primary Colors. Assuming Ulbricht was Dread Pirate Roberts, it would make sense that he’d be worried that his writing style could give him away. DPR was outspoken and prone to diatribes, as was Ulbricht (cf. his LinkedIn essay.)

PS. One other tiny thing I noticed is that Ulbricht uses DuckDuckGo, the privacy-first search engine that my colleague Chris Neary reported about awhile back. Chris made the On the Media production staff try DuckDuckGo for a week, which drove some of us insane.

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TLDR is a short podcast and blog about the internet by PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman. You can subscribe to our podcast here. You can follow our blog here. We’re also on Twitter, and we play Team Fortress 2 more or less constantly, so find us there if you like to communicate via computer games from six years ago.

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