Google fights for Internet freedom with new tools

Battling governments blocking access, Google unveils new tools

In a move to fight back against governments that try to block their citizens' Internet access, Google released tools to keep people around the world online.

"As long as people have expressed ideas, others have tried to silence them," wrote Jared Cohen, director of Google Ideas in a blog post. "Today one out of every three people lives in a society that is severely censored. Online barriers can include everything from filters that block content to targeted attacks designed to take down websites. For many people, these obstacles are more than an inconvenience -- they represent full-scale repression."

In partnership with the Council on Foreign Relations and the Gen Next Foundation, Google hosted a summit in New York City early this week entitled "Conflict in a Connected World."

Bringing together security experts, entrepreneurs and dissidents, Google focused the summit on talking about the changing nature of conflict along with ways to address online censorship.

At the summit, Google took the wraps off uProxy, which acts as a digital underground railroad, connecting people in censored areas with a pathway to an online connection. The uProxy is a browser extension, which Google said is still under development. It is designed to let people, in the U.S. or Canada for example, to provide friends in countries where the Internet access is restricted a connection to the Web.

Google Ideas funded the research for the tool developed by programmers at the University of Washington and at the nonprofit Brave New Software.

Dan Olds, an analyst with The Gabriel Consulting Group, said uProxy can be a helpful tool for anyone living in a country, such as Iran and Sudan, where the governments have sometimes blocked online access.

"Yes, it can definitely help but users would need to have a friend in another country that they can connect through in order to use this tool," Olds said. "And the level of trust between the two parties needs to be high. The person using the connection needs to trust that his friend truly has a secure access point. And the person who is providing the connection needs to trust that the person using it isn't doing anything illegal."

Google also is working with Arbor Networks to create what they're calling a Digital Attack Map, a real-time map of DDoS attacks on Websites around the world.

According to Google, the map lets users explore historic trends and see related news reports of outages happening on any given day.

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