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[liberationtech] Jacob Appelbaum on Ultrasurf

Catherine Fitzpatrick catfitz at verizon.net
Tue Apr 24 12:41:04 PDT 2012


Re: Message: 9

Date: Fri, 20 Apr 2012 11:05:34 +1000
From: nic <nic at 404ed.org>
To: liberationtech at lists.stanford.edu
Cc: Catherine Fitzpatrick <catfitz at verizon.net>
Subject: Re: [liberationtech] Jacob Appelbaum's Ultrasurf Report
Message-ID: <20120420110534.702df0cf at discord.404ed.org>

Nic,

You're using the usual tendentious methods that are common to arguments in favour of open source.

You've decided in advance, in an edge-casing, exaggerating fashion, that Ultrasurf "harms" its users or is "broken" or "dangerous" because it doesn't work in the way you wished it did or think it should work. But these notions of "harm" and "broken" are themselves entirely subjective and manipulated.

All kinds of products in the world don't work as advertised, including Tor --they don't tell you how slow it is or other problems easily Googled or that the entire project is at risk because its main founder is under grand jury investigation. But in a context where there are huge numbers of users, in a context of pluralism, and a context where users are more savvy than you think, the risk is spread more than you are prepared to believe.

You can be called out that software is "broken" only if the very notion 
of "broken" -- which is a wildly common misused geeky notion applied to 
just about anything they don't like from Congress to email. Why the medical and food poisoning analogies when software is not a real toxin? The real consequences in the real world start and end with something like the toxic Chinese Communist Party, not the means by which people might circumvent it, and it's important to keep that in view. There's a tendency to convert these very real challenges of Communist state power into surrogate issues of Western corporations or users, and technologize them, in order to make it seem as if we can all "do something". Never forget that you are having a debate about surrogates of the real problem -- the Chinese Communist Party.

You and others never confront the main issue here: that Chinese or Iranian or Russian ISPs already have their custermers' data for the most part, and people's identity is already "compromised". You continue to post a world in which everybody is like you, desirous of anonymity/pseudonynmity and maximum invisibility on the Internet. Not everyone has those cultural values or even needs those cultural values.

Jacob Appelbaum obfuscated the dangers of Ultrasurf by completing ignoring these realities and hyping the danger to users, as you are doing. It doesn't matter if he did this under his own name, as there is a lot about the process of reverse-engineering and attacking the flaws in Ultrasurf that he is *not* telling us about.

I've never seen any compelling information that people circumventing their oppressive governments are somehow naive about the dangers -- the activists know the risks and take them, the ordinary users, far more numerous, have just enough trust to make the challenge work, and don't need more.  I remember when the same gang of "Internet freedom" boosters were banging on the flawed program Haystack, which indeed manifested the usual tekkie hubris. But no one was ever able to demonstrate that a single dissident was harmed by its testing.

Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
http://3dblogger.typepad.com/wired_state
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