Monday, February 20, 2006

Anonymous Web Browsing - Not just for U.S. paranoids anymore

The U.S. government was really ticked off for quite a while at the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). John Ashcroft took them to task for developing methods for Internet surfers to surf the Web while masking their identity. That made government agents at the FBI and Department of Justice generally really anxious. What sort of American citizen would want to hide their identity while surfing the Internet? Geez, they must be doing something they would not want their government to know about!

Well, the EFF fought off attempts by the government to shut down their TOR organization and affiliated Privoxy system. These two systems effectively break down an internet search packet into tiny bits, and encrypt them so they cannot be read. Then they scatter the bits among many computers, and route them on a very circuitous way from requestor to answer and back. Along the way, no computer can "see" farther than one computer back or forward along the chain. So no snooper can trace the packet or decrypt it. Or if they do, they only get a tiny bit. Very effective.

Now, they turn into heroes. Just as Google and Internet Explorer bow to demands by the People's Republic of China to allow censoring of the Internet, the providers of such masking tools as TOR and Privoxy start to look like heroes. Suddenly they look like the Voice of America. Wow! How the worm turns! There are more than just Tor, but it's my personal favorite. See Tor and its helpmate, Privoxy.

See an article in the Boston Globe about "Beating Censorship on the Internet" for a discussion of the various organizations working on masking or other work-arounds.

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