In today’s Bulldog wrapup of technology news:

  • Libraries fight for Internet freedom
  • Conflicts hinder Tesla-SolarCity deal
  • Drones tested for rescue missions
  • China demands paid search information after man’s death

The details:

  • Browse free or die? New Hampshire library is at privacy fore

A small library in New Hampshire sits at the forefront of global efforts to promote privacy and fight government surveillance — to the consternation of law enforcement.

The Kilton Public Library in Lebanon, a city of 13,000, last year became the nation’s first library to use Tor, software that masks the location and identity of internet users, in a pilot project initiated by the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Library Freedom Project. Users the world over can — and do — have their searches randomly routed through thelibrary.

Computers that have Tor loaded on them bounce internet searches through a random pathway, or series of relays, of other computers equipped with Tor. This network of virtual tunnels masks the location and internet protocol address of the person doing the search.

In a feature that makes Kilton unique among U.S. libraries, it also has a computer with a Tor exit relay, which delivers the internet query to the destination site and becomes identified as the last-known source of the query.

Alison Macrina, founder and director of the Library Freedom Project, said her organization chose Kilton for its pilot project because it had embraced other privacy-enhancing software the project recommended and because she knew the library had the know-how take it to the complicated exit-relay stage.

Tor can protect shoppers, victims of domestic violence, whistleblowers, dissidents, undercover agents — and criminals — alike. A recent routine internet search using Tor on one of Kilton’s computers was routed through Ukraine, Germany and the Netherlands.

“Libraries are bastions of freedom,” said Shari Steele, executive director of the Tor Project, a nonprofit started in 2004 to promote the use of Tor worldwide. “They are a great natural ally.”

Watch a backgrounhd video about the project at:

  • Apparent conflicts of interest may dog Tesla-SolarCity deal

It’s a proposal that would unite two companies on shaky financial ground as they plow into relatively new markets. One makes electric cars, the other installs solar panels. There are few obvious synergies.

Perhaps even more puzzling are the motives of Elon Musk, a polarizing billionaire who is the chairman and largest shareholder of both companies.

The overlap created a glaring conflict of interest that’s fueling concerns about whether Musk is milking Tesla’s higher market value and better brand recognition to bail out SolarCity — a company run by his cousin, Lyndon Rive.

The second-guessing probably wouldn’t be as widespread if not for the murky logic underlying the deal and Musk’s history of drawing upon Tesla and another of his companies, rocket ship maker Space X, to bolster SolarCity.

Musk, 44, insists he is just showing good business sense, describing Tesla’s bid of up to $2.5 billion as a “no brainer” shortly after it was announced earlier this week.

Investors, though, aren’t so sure. SolarCity’s shares have edged up by just 5 percent to $22.20 since the all-stock bid was made, well below the $23.56 to $25.30 currently being offered by Tesla. Meanwhile, Tesla’s stock has sank by 12 percent to $193.15.

The offer “raises a number of questions around governance that may test the bond of trust,” Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas wrote in a research note. One of Tesla’s most ardent supporters, Jonas downgraded Tesla and lowered his target price on the shares by 26 percent to $245.

S&P Global Market Intelligence analyst Efraim Levy believes investor resistance eventually may prompt Tesla to withdraw its bid.

  • Use of drones for disaster missions put to the test

How to distribute lifesaving supplies quickly and safely after a natural disaster has long been a puzzle for responders. Now, drones might be the lifesaver.

That idea was put to the test this week in New Jersey as a drone delivery service conducted test flights to help determine whether drones can be used to carry human medical samples to and from areas that cannot be accessed or communicated with during major storms, earthquakes or other disasters.

Experts say drones are becoming a more valuable tool in many humanitarian operations, where the unmanned aircraft can be quickly launched and used to collect data and images and help locate people who might be injured or trapped. But Timothy Amukele, an assistant professor of pathology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, said that biological samples “are not like a shoe or a book; they are pretty fragile items.”

“For example, if blood is being carried on the back of motorcycle, shaking caused by the bike and its vibrations can ruin the sample,” said Amukele, a volunteer adviser to Flirtey, the company that conducted the tests in New Jersey. “We want to see what tasks the drones can perform and if the drones have similar effects on samples they carry.”

About 100 people looked on as the drones flew Wednesday between an onshore medical relief camp and a test facility on a vessel stationed on the Delaware Bay. They took medical supplies from the vessel to the medical camp, while blood and other medical specimens were flown between the sites.

The tests were done at the invitation of the Field Innovation Team, a nonprofit that works with agencies and experts from various fields to develop solutions to humanitarian disaster scenarios.

The tests came a day after President Barack Obama’s administration approved the routine use of small drones by real estate agents, farmers, filmmakers and countless other commercial operators after years of struggling to write rules that would both protect public safety and free the benefits of a new technology.

The Reno, Nevada-based firm conducted what it said was the nation’s first autonomous urban drone delivery in the U.S. in March. That happened in Nevada, one of six states the Federal Aviation Administration has designated as unmanned aircraft systems test sites.

  • China tells search engines to ID paid results after man died

China issued new regulations on Saturday demanding that search engines clearly identify paid search results, months after a terminally ill cancer patient complained that he was misled by the giant search engine Baidu.

Wei Zexi, a college student who died in April of a rare cancer, had written a long post on a Chinese website detailing how he was led to a Beijing hospital for treatments after searching on Baidu. He said that the treatment turned out to be ineffective and expensive and that later he learned the therapy was yet to be fully approved.

Wei accused Baidu of taking money to promote less proven treatments.

The Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) announced on its website the new regulations, which also ban search engines from showing subversive content and obscene information. Such prohibitions have long been in place, but it is the first timeChina explicitly has regulated paid search results.

The administration said search engines must review the qualifications of paying clients, clearly identify paid results, and limit the number of paid results on a web page.

When Wei’s post became publicly known in May, Baidu was widely denounced for its practice of blurring promotional search results with legitimate ones on the home searchpage. Its chief executive Robin Li was called in by China’s web regulators for talks.

By May 9, Baidu agreed to take corrective steps as demanded by a joint investigation team, the official Xinhua News Agency said.

Baidu removed 126 million promotional search results for medical information and 2,518 medical institutes from its search pages. It agreed to set aside 1 billion yuan ($150 million) to compensate users defrauded by misleading promotional results. And it would no longer rank promotional results solely on bidding prices, Xinhua reported.

On Saturday, a Baidu representative responded by pledging to work with regulators and web users “to provide objective, impartial and authoritative search results.”