Preserving online anonymity for activists.By Access Now
Repressive regimes have become increasingly sophisticated in their surveillance of the net. In countries where the web is censored, citizens are at great risk of internet surveillance known as ‘traffic analysis’ that tracks who is speaking to whom over public networks. While much is made of the power of social media to create alternative spaces in which people can organise, in reality much of that traffic can be monitored by the authorities. That is why it is so vital for civil rights activists to be able to use proxy services which provide them with some protection by making it hard for governments to track down where they are operating from.
The most famous, some would say notorious, example is the Tor network, in which thousands of people use their computers to pass on information and share internet access with others by becoming ‘bridges’ or ‘relays’ in the Tor network. Tor Project powers a Global Proxy Cloud – a service that is created by this network of people that provides an alternative route for citizens living under repressive regimes to get around country-imposed firewalls in a safe and secure manner.
Thanks to the Tor network people can use the internet freely and anonymously, which is crucial in countries where internet usage is monitored and personal data is collected and held by governments. But beyond its application for those living under oppressive governments, the cloud is used by many others, from everyday individuals using the service to keep websites from tracking their families and themselves, to journalists who use it to safely communicate with dissidents and whistle-blowers. Activist groups use the cloud to protect their members’ privacy, and even corporations use the system to conduct private competitor analyses and protect procurement patterns from being monitored by others.
Although Tor is criticised for being a tool for subversives and terrorists, even the military use it for online intelligence gathering.
Image 'anonymity' courtesy of KitaKitts
Last updated: 09th of May, 2014