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[liberationtech] Appelbaum's Ultrasurf report

x z xhzhang at
Wed Apr 18 11:42:15 PDT 2012

Thanks Jacob for your detailed reply. I have some more comments below (the
last two points are more important than the first two).

- Re Ultrasurf's block page featuring advertisement. Yes, from a purist's
point of view, advertisement and money have some intrinsic evilness in it,
but we have to accept it in the real world. The block page attaching a
Google Analytics cookie is not great for privacy or anonymity. Yes I think
they should disclose this, but this deserves a warning, not "condemnation"
as it appears to be.

- The nature of Ultrasurf blocking porn *is* different to government
censorship - the latter is forceful, the former is not, one can easily use
other tools to access porn, people do have choices here.

- You said "*Yes, I find that actually a useful way to test if a tool would
even work at all in China - can users of the tool access sites in China?*"
- I think we should clarify what "work" and "block" means. A user in China
does not need to use Ultrasurf to browse websites hosted inside China, he
uses Ultrasurf to surf the internet outside GFW. The fact that GFW blocks
access *from* Ultrasurf does not indicate that Ultrasurf does not *work*.
Yes, when a Syrian user wants to use Ultrasurf to visit sites hosted in
China, it'll fail, but does it matter?

- The last point is what I want to stress, you stated that "a key idea must
be to think beyond circumvention" at the very end of your long reply to me.
I think this point is the fundamental reason for the tension between you
and Ultrasurf. Security, anonymity and privacy (SAP) are very important, I
agree with it, but I also think that *circumvention in itself* is important
as well. What China (I don't know the other countries) needs most
*is*circumvention, whileas SAP is only icing on the cake. This is why
has been so popular and has benefited the world hugely.

Lastly, I must add that your Ultrasurf study and report are very useful and
extremely important in making Ultrasurf more secure and force them to be
more honest in their marketing.


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