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[liberationtech] Not another Haystack right?

Jillian C. York jilliancyork at gmail.com
Thu Dec 1 12:02:44 PST 2011


I have no empirical answers of course, but +1 to the urging for research on
this.  It is entirely plausible that this is indeed overblown and that I
hang with conspiracy theorists (though I somehow doubt it).

I think there's one more element here regarding Tor that might make a
difference: Until very recently, Tor was still much more difficult to use
than your average proxy or circumvention tool - I would hypothesize that
its difficulty has set its users apart; that is to say, Tor users would be
more aware, more savvy of this space.  They were/are probably more likely
to read up on what the tool really does.

Another thing, of course, is that the better tools don't pitch themselves
as heavily as the less safe ones.  I've gotten PR emails from
HotSpotShield, for example (and they use, or used at the time, a
hipster-ish PR firm, too).  When you've got a slick PR campaign, you're
going to attract people who don't know much about the tool aside from "it
lets me access YouTube."  A Tor user, on the other hand, would have some
sense of their own risk model, one would think.

Again, these are just thoughts that a person taking on such research might
consider :)



On Thu, Dec 1, 2011 at 11:37 AM, Luke Allnutt <AllnuttL at rferl.org> wrote:

>
> I would add a couple of questions to this debate:
>
> 1) Is there any substantial evidence, beyond ancedotal, that users won't
> trust a service if it's USG funded? I'm sure many people would indeed be
> wary, but don't know how much field research there is on this type of
> thing.
>
> 2) Before asking the "do they care" question, I think you need to answer
> the "do they even know" question. Of course, in libtech world, who funds
> who is crucial, and ideological, and political, but does the average user
> know, say, about who funds Tor? I understand they could easily find out if
> they wanted to, but I'm skeptical if many would be interested, providing
> the tool worked for them.
>
> Fascinating discussion.
>
> Best Wishes,
>
> Luke
> RFE/RL
>
>
>
>
>  *Nathan of Guardian <nathan at guardianproject.info>*
> Sent by: liberationtech-bounces at lists.stanford.edu
>
> 12/01/2011 08:26 PM
>   To
> liberationtech at lists.stanford.edu
> cc
>   Subject
> Re: [liberationtech] Not another Haystack right?
>
>
>
>
> On 12/01/2011 01:40 PM, Brian Conley wrote:
> > so its especially interesting to me to see how Tor evades such
> > conspiracy talk
>
> I agree this should be a dissertation, but here are some throughts from
> a product design perspective. I think that if a tool has demonstrable
> value, people, as user or consumers of a tool, and are able to deal with
> the cognitive dissonance that might be caused by paranoia or actual
> information that, on its own would be troubling, but in context of the
> task at hand, is secondary.
>
> As an example, seemingly no matter what Facebook does, you cannot get
> people to quit it, and by people I mean activists, human rights
> organizations, etc. The value or pleasure it provides is greater than
> the perceived risk of being exposed to its subtle brand of evil. Same
> goes with all the hardcore activists I know who use iPhones without
> second thought about the closed OS, app censorship, manufacturing
> practices, premium cost, etc. They just want a phone that works, that
> can take good pictures, stream video and doesn't add more hassle to
> their already hassled lives.
>
> If you live somewhere where you cannot get to Facebook or Twitter, and
> you really have a need to do that, and Tor works for you, I think
> however you feel about Tor being funded by the USG in part, it matters
> less than your need to update your status and connect with your global
> community. Maybe somewhere down the road, you might take up building
> your own version of Tor, but right now, when the rubber hits the road,
> you have to use what works.
>
> This also works against Tor in many cases, where people might understand
> it is the best option, but will use a less safe VPN or single-hop proxy,
> because they want something 'faster' or need to stream a YouTube video
> in Flash. In that case, they are following the wrong instincts, but it
> is the same mechanic at play.
>
> To bring the discussion back to the top, the problem with Haystack was
> not USG funding. The problem was that it didn't work the way it claimed
> to, and had no process in place to transparently assure its users that
> it could solve problems as they arose. Haystack went from 0 to 60, in
> months, trying to solve a problem that takes years of hard work to even
> understand. Tor should get credit for playing the long game and showing
> up every day, ready to work, even through their software does play Ray
> Charles' version of "America the Beautiful" every time you boot it up.
>
> +n
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-- 
jilliancyork.com | @jilliancyork | tel: +1-857-891-4244 | google voice:
+1-415-562-JILL
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