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[liberationtech] Fwd: Haystack

Gabe Gossett Gabe.Gossett at wwu.edu
Thu Aug 19 12:42:41 PDT 2010


"How many of the people known to have been arrested or silenced were using, or thought they were using, some kind of 'safe' technology to subvert both technological blockades and national laws? Until we know that, should we be prescribing these cures to patients we've never met and can't watch over?"

At the risk of going into a similar debate that took place on this listserv within the last year . . .

Is there any way to know how many people have been arrested or silenced when using a "safe" technology?  Not really.   No doubt it has  happened many times.  But I don't see why that would mean these technologies shouldn't be developed and distributed by Westerners in safe societies with access to the means to do so.  There is a long history of cat and mouse government information blockade circumvention that predates computers.  In every instance that circumvention information circuit involved unknown degrees of risk.

As long as the developers are honest about the capabilities of their applications, and the users have as good an understanding of the risks as is possible, I don't see a problem.  I'm speaking on a theoretical level here, not about the implementation of any one technology.  Haystack may have inflated claims about its capabilities and lacks clarity on what they are offering (if anything at all), and that is wrong.  But, Haystack aside, if we waited until we knew for certain whether a technology was entirely safe from government prying eyes or not we would just do nothing.  If any circumvention technology developer is going around claiming that they have developed an entirely safe technology, that is wrong.  I have a problem, though, with implicitly assuming that users in repressive countries are too naïve to weigh the risks of trying to get around government barriers.  I see that implication in the statement above, though perhaps that was not intentional.

I think that there is generally a good point  in that statement, but it only goes so far.  Any user of these technologies is probably already putting themselves at risk with their government.  Just having a face to face conversation with the wrong person, after all, will get you in trouble.  So if a safe Westerner thinks they can develop something that might give people in these countries an edge against a government, then by all means let them do it and feel good about it.

-Gabe



From: liberationtech-bounces at lists.stanford.edu [mailto:liberationtech-bounces at lists.stanford.edu] On Behalf Of Jim Youll
Sent: Thursday, August 19, 2010 10:32 AM
To: Mahmood Enayat
Cc: Liberation Technologies
Subject: Re: [liberationtech] Fwd: Haystack


On Aug 19, 2010, at 6:42 AM, Mahmood Enayat wrote:


The big players of circumvention solutions, which have received less attention, are all available here: www.sesawe.net<http://www.sesawe.net/> , Why Haystack is not available online like them?


Cat and mouse can be played, yes.
But this technology is looking more and more like merely a way for privileged, warm, well-fed, free, safe Westerners to feel good about themselves while putting already at-risk populations at even greater risk of trouble.

Laws, guns, and prisons trump technological finesse. Period. This is not negotiable.

Keep in mind that US companies providing equipment to Internet providers are also providing access and monitoring capabilities in that equipment... at full OC3 speeds...

How many of the people known to have been arrested or silenced were using, or thought they were using, some kind of 'safe' technology to subvert both technological blockades and national laws? Until we know that, should we be prescribing these cures to patients we've never met and can't watch over?


2002:
"...But Chinese surfers often use proxy servers - websites abroad that let surfers reach blocked sites - to evade the Great Red Firewall. Such techniques are routinely posted online or exchanged in chat rooms. But China's 45 million internet users face considerable penalties if they are found looking at banned sites. According to human rights activists, dozens of people have been arrested for their online activities on subversion charges."
            - http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/2234154.stm

2006:
... Those attempting to access these banned sites are automatically reported to the Public Security Bureau. Internet police in cities such as Xi'an and Chongqing can reportedly trace the activities of the users without their knowledge and monitor their online activities by various technical means."
            - http://www.amnestyusa.org/document.php?id=ENGUSA20060201001

2008:
"...Around 30 journalists were known to be in prison and at least 50 individuals were in prison for posting their views on the internet. People were often punished simply for accessing banned websites"
            - http://www.amnesty.org/en/region/china/report-2008

2010:
"... The ministry of public security said 5,394 people had been arrested and that over 9,000 websites had been deleted for having pornographic content. The ministry did not say how many people had subsequently been put on trial. The authorities released the figures with a warning that its policing of the internet would intensify in 2010 in order to preserve 'state security'. China maintains strict censorship of the internet in order to make sure that unhealthy content, including criticism of the Communist Party, does not reach a wide audience."
            - http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/china/6921568/China-arrests-5000-for-internet-pornography-offences.html

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