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[liberationtech] [Liberation Technology Newsletter] Liberation Technology Blog Updates

Jim Youll jyoull at alum.mit.edu
Sat Jul 17 11:56:00 PDT 2010


With regard to the "Anti-Censorship Shelter" promoted by Reporters Without Borders...

I'd be rude and no doubt really wrong to suppose or suggest that Reporters Without Borders could have gone into this offering without good information and study of risks and benefits.

However, what does anyone really know about XeroBank, a commercial "privacy" vendor that stands to gain much from the PR and market reach of this partnership?

XeroBank is an opaque, Panamanian-chartered corporation. Its "team" members have reasonable credentials, but who's funding them? How good is this stuff? And even assuming that they're doing everything they say they are, exactly as they say they are doing it, what risks remain? At least one of their team comes from a Tor-hyping background (Hacktivismo), and I've heard from this crew more than a few unjustifiable claims of "absolute" protections via Tor and other tech magic. Hype like "XeroBank is a communications security firm that has cornered the market on ... online privacy" don't exactly inspire confidence.

XeroBank's PR materials also speak in absolutes. But crypto and security do not guarantee absolute protections. Used incorrectly, or even in the presence of external actions not related directly to technology, they may end up offering little or no protection.

Is anyone looking into this? Is anyone working really hard on the real-world risks of trusting Tor or Tor-derivatives for the safety of at-risk individuals / targets of monitoring?

If so, can I help you? If not, do you want to work with me on a project to try to frame the risks in real-world terms that are useful to the non-technical surveillance targets who might blindly trust these technologies to protect them? I want to understand what it would take to get someone exposed, arrested, or killed because they relied on this technology.

For the hundredth time, this is NOT a case where "well, something is better than nothing" holds up. In fact, something may be worse than nothing. By definition, those who would rely on the Anti-Censorship Shelter (real or virtual) are already or presumably likely to be targeted for surveillance, censorship, arrest, and worse... tools provided to them cannot just make interception/identification "inconvenient". Parties with an interest in stopping these high-value targets can and will budget substantial resources if necessary ... QED.

- jim



On Jul 16, 2010, at 12:36 PM, Liberation Technology wrote:

> Liberation Technology Blog Updates
> 
> New stories from the blog this week:
> 
> Mapping technology projects for transparency
> Mobiles and community radio: report from MobileActive.org
> Decoding Digital Activism at the New America Foundation
> Apps for Africa contest launched
> Reporters Without Borders opens "Anti-Censorship Shelter"
> DataDyne project empowers Chilean farmers
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