The debate over freedom of speech now extends to the Internet – and Google wants to see this fundamental right honored globally.
One way this is being achieved is through new technology called uProxy. It is a secure browser extension now being developed by the University of Washington and Brave New Software. Google Ideas provided seed money for the project.
Currently, it is limited to those users involved in the Beta test. This stage involves what Google calls “trusted testers.” Each has a significant technical background. Those interested in applying to be a beta tester can visit http://uproxy.org/#join.
Once testing is complete, a final version will be offered to the public.
uProxy is currently being developed for Firefox and Chrome. Later, it could be used with other browsers and mobile devices.
The idea behind uProxy is to provide a secure path to the Internet – even if people live in a nation where the government controls access, such as Iran and Syria. China, also, is known for censoring certain words online, such as “democracy” and “human rights.” Egypt and Tunisia also censored Internet use during recent periods of civil unrest.
“These are going to be useful additions to the activist toolkit,” Philip Howard, a professor at the University of Washington, told NBC News. “Authoritarian governments have started figuring out how to use social media to spy on activists and control political conversation. Any new tool that lets people network with family and friends in a secure way is likely to have a political impact.”
There is additional need for it because connections can be disrupted or fall victim to cyber-attacks, as well.
Looking at the product, uProxy appears to be similar to offering a Virtual Private Network (VPN). Using uProxy, however, is likely to be easier.
“It's like a personalized VPN service that you set up for yourself and your friends,” project researchers explained in a recent statement. “uProxy helps users protect each other from third parties who may try to watch, block, or redirect users’ Internet connections.”
There could be one noteworthy drawback to the offering. Danny O’Brien, executive director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, warned that uProxy may lead to nations particularly targeting Google.
Meanwhile, Google is also offering Project Shield, which can protect websites against distributed denial of service (DDOS) attacks. Google especially wants to help activists in nations where the governments use DDOS attacks to shut down their websites. In addition, Google is offering something called a “Digital Attack Map,” which shows where digital attacks are taking place and provides users comparative data.
Edited by Blaise McNamee