Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

Anti-censorship in China. . . and anti-click fraud prevention?

Posted by Tom Foremski - February 25, 2006

By Tom Foremski for SiliconValleyWatcher Jason Dunne over at Contos Dunne Communications sent me this information about a technology being developed by Anonymizer to overcome censorship. However, a technology such as this could make it near-impossible to filter out click-fraud, imho. Click-fraud is the practice of employing people to click on online ads to fraudently collect money from advertisers. It is a growing problem and companies such as Google and others try to filter out the fraud by monitoring the IP addresses and any other information that might indicate fraudulent activity.
The software will make a secure (SSL) connection to Anonymizer's anti-censorship servers through a frequently changing set of IP addresses that are not associated with Anonymizer. From there, the user's connection will continue to its destination over the uncensored Internet, and will appear to come from yet another IP address. This system will ensure that the user is protected both from interception and blocking of their Internet traffic when exiting China. It will also protect against monitoring of forums or other Web sites which will try to detect the users IP address within China. Any attempt to monitor this connection from within China will only see ordinary SSL Web connections to uncontroversial domains. Any monitoring of IP addresses accessing forums, Web-mail sites, blogs, or discussion boards will show Anonymizer IP addresses which are impossible to track back to the originating IP address.
Here is the rest of the info on Anonymizer and a statement made by Congressman Chris Smith on the subject of censorship: San Diego, CA-based Anonymizer Inc.'s president, founder and chief scientist, Lance Cottrell, has been fighting for “the people” to uphold basic civil liberties in repressive regimes for more than a decade. He is also the leading advocate of online identity protection and privacy rights. These issues are finally becoming better understood through current affairs (i.e. China censorship by U.S. tech leaders, search engine privacy issues, White House subpoenas, NSA wiretaps, and more). Cottrell and his company are enabling a safe, protected, free and uncensored Internet. In fact, they are currently providing anti-censorship services in Iran, and now (once again) for the people of China (at their own expense, I might add). Below is a statement that was made in last week’s hearing by Congressman Chris Smith, Chairman of the House International Relations Subcommittee on Africa, Global Human Rights and International Operations: “Earlier this month, the technology firm Anonymizer announced that it is developing a new anti-censorship technology that will enable Chinese citizens to safely access the entire Internet filter-free. The solution will provide a regularly changing URL so that users can likely access the uncensored Internet. In addition, users' identities are apparently protected from online monitoring by the Chinese regime. Lance Cottrell of Anonymizer said it ‘is not willing to sit idly by while the freedom of the Internet is slowly crushed. We take pride in the fact that our online privacy and security solutions provide access to global information for those under the thumb of repressive regimes.’” Here is the link to the entire statement: http://usinfo.state.gov/xarchives/display.html?p=washfile-english&y=2006&m=February&x=20060215133254TJkcolluB0.2933008&t=livefeeds/wf-latest.html ANONYMIZER TO PROVIDE censor-FREE INTERNET TO CHINA Free anti-censorship program scheduled to launch by end of quarter. San Diego, Calif. – February 1, 2006 – Anonymizer® Inc., the leader in online identity protection technology and software solutions, today announced that the company is developing a new anti-censorship solution that will enable Chinese citizens to safely access the entire Internet filter-free, and also free from oppression and fear of persecution or retribution. This new program expands upon Anonymizer’s history of human rights efforts which provide a censor-free Internet experience for those in oppressed nations. Anonymizer’s new anti-censorship solution for Chinese citizens will be available before quarter’s end. The solution will provide a regularly changing URL that users can access to open the doors to unfettered access of the World Wide Web. In addition, users’ identities will be protected from online tracking and monitoring by the Chinese government. “Anonymizer is not willing to sit idly by while the freedom of the Internet is slowly crushed,” commented Lance Cottrell, president and chief scientist, Anonymizer Inc. “We take pride in the fact that our online privacy and security solutions provide access to global information for those under the thumb of repressive regimes.” The communist government has taken a hard line against freedom of the press and access to information on the Internet. Google and others have been forced into a box by the Chinese government’s strict requirements, but Anonymizer stands firm on the issue of protecting civil liberties. The company has been protecting basic liberties for more than a decade. It enabled safe Internet communications for families split on either side of the Kosovo conflict; it was used previously by the Voice of America to ensure that news Web sites were not blocked by the Communist government in China. Anonymizer also works in conjunction with the Voice of America today to bring safe Internet access to Iranian citizens. About Anonymizer Anonymizer is the leading provider of Internet privacy and security solutions for consumers, corporations, organizations and government agencies. The company provides safe and secure Web experiences to millions of global Internet users. Its Web site is home to the world’s most popular Internet privacy service, Anonymous Surfing, which defends users from the most prevalent Internet privacy and security threats. Anonymizer identity protection solutions have been used to protect billions of Web pages since the company’s inception in 1995. Anonymizer is privately held and headquartered in San Diego, California. (http://www.anonymizer.com) ### THE INTERNET IN CHINA: A TOOL FOR FREEDOM OR SUPPRESSION? Testimony before the House Committee on International Relations Subcommittee on Africa, Global Human Rights & International Operations February 15, 2006 By Lance M. Cottrell, Global Privacy Advocate Founder and Chief Scientist Anonymizer, Inc. Honorable Chairman Christopher Smith, Distinguished Members of the Subcommittee, I am honored to be invited to share my insight on the current state of China’s censorship of their citizens’ Internet usage. I would like to express my gratitude for being able to provide the details of a new solution that Anonymizer is developing to provide the People’s Republic of China with uncensored access to the Internet. I will also briefly explain why Anonymizer has chosen to provide this solution to China for free. Finally, I will comment on Reporters Without Borders proposal and add my perspective on legislative decisions. ANONYMIZER’S ANTI-CENSORSHIP SOLUTION Anonymizer is currently developing a new anti-censorship solution that will enable Chinese citizens to safely access the entire World Wide Web filter-free, while free from oppression and fear of persecution or retribution. This new program expands upon Anonymizer’s history of human rights efforts which provide a censor-free, safe Internet experience for those in oppressed nations. This new anti-censorship solution will be available to Chinese citizens before quarter’s end. The solution will provide a regularly changing access point that enables users to open the unobstructed doors of the World Wide Web. In addition, the users’ identities will be protected from online tracking and monitoring by the Chinese government. Interested Chinese citizens will be able to submit their email address either through a Web page or via dissidents outside of the great firewall of China. Once added to Anonymizer’s mailing list, the recipient will receive a daily email that includes a link to download the anti-censorship software, as well as updated configuration for the program. Both of these items will change daily to stay one step ahead of the Chinese government and to avoid blocking. This email list will be protected within Anonymizer’s secure networks and will not be shared, rented, or sold to any third party. The software will make a secure (SSL) connection to Anonymizer’s anti-censorship servers through a frequently changing set of IP addresses that are not associated with Anonymizer. From there, the user’s connection will continue to its destination over the uncensored Internet, and will appear to come from yet another IP address. This system will ensure that the user is protected both from interception and blocking of their Internet traffic when exiting China. It will also protect against monitoring of forums or other Web sites which will try to detect the users IP address within China. Any attempt to monitor this connection from within China will only see ordinary SSL Web connections to uncontroversial domains. Any monitoring of IP addresses accessing forums, Web-mail sites, blogs, or discussion boards will show Anonymizer IP addresses which are impossible to track back to the originating IP address. Anonymizer’s solutions are all designed to make it impossible to track connections back to identify the user of the system. FREE SERVICE FOR CHINA There are many US companies that do not respect freedom of expression when operating in repressive countries. Unfortunately, companies such as Google, Cisco, Yahoo!, and Microsoft are reaping financial gains at the expense of those under the thumb of repressive regimes. In addition to this, the practices of these U.S.-based companies are tarnishing the image of America abroad. Anonymizer is not willing to sit idly by while the freedom of the Internet is slowly crushed. Because of this, the company decided to provide this anti-censorship solution to the People’s Republic of China for free. Anonymizer is providing this solution in part to prove that the choice of “capitulate or lose” is a false dichotomy. By leveraging the appropriate technology, a company can achieve access without sacrificing its principles. Any of these collaborating companies could use anti-censorship technologies similar to Anonymizer’s to ensure that their content and services would be available within oppressed countries without having to facilitate the oppression in any way. Although there would be some cost in providing this service, as there is to Anonymizer, profits can not be the only factor in driving corporate decision making. LEGISLATION Current anti-bribery laws set a precedent for regulating U.S. companies operating within other countries. Although these laws put American companies at a slight disadvantage in the global economy, they were established to set a standard of conduct by which all U.S. must companies abide. It was simply the right thing to do. The U.S. government also restricts exports of certain munitions to specified countries. Although these countries may still be able to obtain the munitions, it is simply not appropriate for U.S. companies to aid our military opponents. Similarly, it is imperative for U.S. companies to take more responsibility for their actions in repressed countries with filtering and Internet surveillance technologies. I believe that U.S. companies should not aid and abet these repressive regimes in the suppression of their people. While I question whether the details of the Reporters Without Borders proposal are realistic, I strongly endorse the idea and principles behind their request for a code of conduct. Therefore, I recommend that the Committee formally request a code of conduct without mandating the specific logistical details requested by RSF. Let these technology experts determine the right thing to do. In addition, it is practically impossible for a small handful of companies to effectively create a code of conduct that all companies must follow. I would encourage a large panel of companies from several industries to participate, thus ensuring a complete and obtainable code of conduct that all companies will embrace. It takes tremendous strength of will and character for a company to take a principled stand on its own, while its competitors reap the benefits of collaboration with the oppressors. Only with wide spread adoption of a code of conduct, either voluntary or legislated, will we see the individual cost to a company become manageable. It is not enough for only U.S. companies to take this stand. The Internet is far too global, with most major players having presence distributed throughout the world. A unified front is necessary not just in the United States but internationally as well. To ensure success, it is critical to gain the support of our global partners, including the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development and the United Nations. CONCLUSION The communist government in China has taken a hard line against freedom of the press and access to information on the Internet. Google and others have been forced into a box by the Chinese government’s strict requirements, but Anonymizer stands firm on the issue of protecting civil liberties. The company has been protecting these basic rights for more than a decade and we are poised to help the people of China as well. Mr. Chairman, we urge you to formally request the leading technology companies to develop a code of conduct that we can all stand behind. As global leaders, we must take responsibility for our actions, or in this case, transactions. Everyone is worthy of these basic human rights and our companies should not profit at the expense of others less fortunate. The team at Anonymizer is thrilled to be able to develop and provide this new solution to the people of China. We believe we are turning on a light in a world of near-darkness. Help us educated them on democracy, Tiananmen Square, civil rights, and freedom of expression. The Internet has always had the potential to make the world a better place. Lets us ensure that it is able to live up to that potential rather than becoming a tool of oppression and propaganda.

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