Tech giant Google is a lot of things to a lot of people, from search engine to word processing software provider to social networking platform to mobile operating system maker -- and more. Now, the company is also moving to help the masses protect against cyber attacks and preserve free speech.
Google on Monday announced new (and free) expression tools from Google Ideas, the company’s self-described “think/do tank.” The news comes as Google Ideas partners with the Council on Foreign Relations and the Gen Next Foundation to hold a summit in New York this week called “Conflict in a Connected World.”
“As long as people have expressed ideas, others have tried to silence them. Today one out of every three people lives in a society that is severely censored,” Jared Cohen, director of Google Ideas, wrote in a blog post. “Online barriers can include everything from filters that block content to targeted attacks designed to take down Web sites. For many people, these obstacles are more than an inconvenience -- they represent full-scale repression.”
Introducing Project Shield
Google announced three new initiatives: Project Shield, the Digital Attack Map, and uProxy. Cohen said information technologies have transformed conflict in our connected world, and access to the free flow of information is increasingly critical. This week’s summit -- as well as these three initiatives -- are all steps Google is taking to help those fighting for free expression around the globe.
Project Shield aims to help people use Google’s technology to better protect Web sites that might otherwise have been taken offline by “distributed denial of service” (DDoS) attacks. Google is currently inviting webmasters serving independent news, human rights, and elections-related content to apply to join its next round of trusted testers.
The Digital Attack Map is a live visualization, built through a collaboration between Arbor Networks and Google Ideas, that maps DDoS attacks designed to take down Web sites -- and their content -- around the globe. Cohen said this tool shows real-time anonymous traffic data related to these attacks on free speech, and also lets people explore historic trends and see related news reports of outages happening on a given day.
Two Different Perspectives
Finally, uProxy is a new browser extension under development that lets friends provide each other with a trusted pathway to the Web, helping protect an Internet connection from filtering, surveillance or misdirection. Cohen said the University of Washington and Brave New Software developed the tool, which was seeded by Google Ideas.
We caught up with Greg Sterling, principal analyst at Sterling Media Intelligence, to get his take on the Google Ideas initiative. As he sees it, there’s likely to be a mixed reaction to the moves.
“From a ‘Western’ perspective this is all very positive: allowing people in countries with repressive regimes to communicate, gain access to information and get ideas out,” Sterling told us. “From the perspective of governments that seek to censor free expression among their citizens, it's very unwelcome and will be regarded as hostile, subversive and an intrusion into domestic affairs.”
Posted: 2013-10-23 @ 10:21am PT
I don't know if I should qualify this Google initiative of hypocrisy or of schizofrenia, but I personally trust governments more than I trust Google, the company that controls information to manipulate market outcome to the disadvantage of consumers.
For those who wants to stay safe, there is the TOR project with its browser, as well as Firefox with Noscript and RequestPolicy. Interesting that those simple solutions can't be implemented in Google controlled Chrome. Guess why?