With the Internet playing an ever-greater role in disseminating information and connecting political opponents of authoritarian regimes, governments with a taste for deterring the same are stepping up surveillance, efforts to control access to inconvenient facts and opinions, and attacks on the Web presence of the opposition. As we all know, even officials in the land of the free have a taste for online snoopiness. So what an appropriate moment for Internet giant Google to step forward with new tools intended to help online users escape surveillance and control, and to deliver their messages even when under cyberattack by the authorities.
On its official blog, Google announced the launch of Project Shield, to help protect websites from distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, the Digital Attack Map, which tracks DDoS attcks in realtime, so they can be exposed as they happen, and uProxy, a browser extension for Chrome and Firefox that works like an easily shared personalized virtual private network (VPN) to allow people living under controlling regimes to surf the Web via connections to users elsewhere, evading censorship and surveillance.
Google describes the services as:
- Project Shield is an initiative that enables people to use Google's technology to better protect websites that might otherwise have been taken offline by "distributed denial of service" (DDoS) attacks. We're currently inviting webmasters serving independent news, human rights, and elections-related content to apply to join our next round of trusted testers.
- The Digital Attack Map is a live data visualization, built through a collaboration between Arbor Networks and Google Ideas, that maps DDoS attacks designed to take down websites—and their content—around the globe. 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.
- 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. The University of Washington and Brave New Software developed the tool, which was seeded by Google Ideas. To learn more about the challenges uProxy aims to address, watch our video.
Given the criticism that Google has come under for collaborating with the NSA and other elements of the U.S. government to allow access to users' data, it's good to see them doing something for the good guys.