Google unveiled new Internet freedom tools on Monday including uProxy, an extension for Chrome and Firefox which allows friends to securely share each others’ Internet connections. Its decentralized design is intended to be more resilient to government interference than existing tools. From Gerry Shih at Reuters:
Known for its “Don’t Be Evil” corporate motto, Google has a well-established reputation for resisting authorities around the world who seek to censor its Web properties, including YouTube and Blogger.
But the formation of the Ideas group, which the company advertises as a “think/do tank” headed by Jared Cohen, a former U.S. State Department official, has raised the possibility of the company playing a more active role in furthering U.S. policy.
[…] The uProxy software, funded by Google but developed by the University of Washington and nonprofit group Brave New Software, will allow users in countries like China to access the Internet as it is seen by a friend in a different, uncensored country. [Source]
“There are billions of people around the world living in environments that severely restrict their free expression,” Jared Cohen, director of Google Ideas, told TIME in an interview on Sunday. “We want to empower them to have access to the same Internet that the rest of us experience. We talk about how we have a responsibility to our users. That also includes people in Iran, North Korea, Cuba and Syria, where the challenges are so serious.”
[…] “If you look at existing proxy tools today, as soon as they’re effective for dissidents, the government finds out about them and either blocks them or infiltrates them,” said Cohen. “Every dissident we know in every repressive society has friends outside the country whom they know and trust. What if those trusted friends could unblock the access in those repressive societies by sharing their own access? That was the problem we tried to solve.” [Source]
A video at uProxy.org explains further:
Amid generally glowing media coverage, the tool has attracted some skepticism. Security researcher Jacob Appelbaum commented that “I think well of the people involved […] though I think this sounds similar to the Haystack nightmare,” referring to a widely hyped anti-censorship tool that was ultimately abandoned after he uncovered dangerous security holes. uProxy is now in closed beta testing, with its developers seeking “a small number of trusted testers with a strong technical background” to help avoid any such disasters.