The developer of proxy software designed to defeat Web filters is offering Internet users US$10 to install and run his application, as a way to raise its profile.
Independent developer Bennett Haselton, creator of the Circumventor proxy software, announced late Thursday that he would pay the money to people who install Circumventor, send him the URL of the proxy and keep it running for at least a week. Haselton promotes Circumventor as a way for young people to defeat Web-filtering software at schools and libraries, but also as a tool for people living in countries that filter Web content.
"We'll distribute the [proxy] URLs to people who need them, such as people serving in the U.S. military overseas (where Internet connections are censored to limit access to sites such as MySpace), and victims of totalitarian dictatorships such as China, North Korea, and high school," he wrote on his Peacefire.org site.
The U.S. House of Representatives vote in late July to approve the Deleting Online Predators Act, which would require many U.S. schools and libraries to block social networking sites such as MySpace, prompted Haselton to make the offer, he said in an e-mail. Haselton, who says parents too often control their children's access to valuable information, calls Web-filtering software "censorware."
"I know the sponsors of that bill don't really believe MySpace is dangerous to teens, because if they did, they'd have parents prosecuted for letting their kids get on it from home," Haselton said. "If something really is dangerous, it's dangerous whether you have your parents' permission or not."
Haselton will distribute the new proxy URLs on the Circumventor e-mail list, which has about 20,000 subscribers, he said. Paying US$10 per computer is "a lot cheaper than paying for a dedicated Web host," he added.
Haselton said he hopes the US$10 offer will give Circumventor an advantage over Web-filtering software vendors.
"It may help turn the tide in the cat-and-mouse game between anticensorship server operators setting up new Circumventor sites, and blocking software companies trying to catch up and block them," he said. "Considering how many bogus 'something for nothing' offers there are out there, we'll have to see how well this bit of viral marketing fares against all the scams floating around."
But Michele Shannon, senior director of product management for filtering vendor Websense, said Internet users who circumvent filters may open themselves up to security problems. Businesses put filtering in place not just to block their employees from going to pornography or shopping sites, but also to block spyware sites and other security problems, she said.
"The Web has become a dangerous place," she said. "If you are able to use Web-filtering circumvention software, then you're able to circumvent what your employer has put in place, maybe for your own protection."
Haselton has gotten no complaints of Circumventor creating security problems in the three years that he's helped users install the proxy, he said.