Google unveils service to bypass government censorship, surveillance

The search engine giant will also begin a service to protect websites from cyber attacks

The Google logo is seen at the Google headquarters in Mountain View, California. on September 2, 2011.
2012 AFP

Google Inc. unveiled two new technology services Monday — one to dodge censorship and the other to fend off cyberattacks.

At a presentation in New York, the company unveiled uProxy, which it says will allow citizens under some regimes to bypass government censorship or surveillance software to surf the Web and use its properties like YouTube and Blogger. The software, which is still being tested, will be available for Google's Chrome browser and Firefox but not for rival Microsoft Corp's Internet Explorer, at least initially.

Google Inc. says it will also begin a "Project Shield" service to protect news organizations and human rights groups from cyberattacks as part of a new package of services designed to support "free expression" on the Web, the internet giant said Monday.

The popular search engine presented the two services — as well as a new map that highlights cyberattacks taking place around the world in real time — as significant software products to emerge from Google Ideas, a think-tank established by the company in 2010.

The formation of the Ideas group, headed by Jared Cohen, a former U.S. State Department official, has raised the possibility of the company playing a more active role in furthering U.S. policy.

Under its "Project Shield" initiative, Google said it would host sites that frequently came under politically motivated 'distributed denial-of-service' (DDoS) attacks. DDoS occurs when multiple computer networks, usually compromised by a virus, flood a server at the same time, forcing it to shut down. Because of the size and sophistication of its technical infrastructure, Google is far more able to withstand such attacks compared to websites hosted independently.

The product remains in testing, Google said. A promotional video featured an endorsement from Balatarin, a popular Persian-language news website that has already tested the digital shield program. Google has also worked to protect an election monitoring website in Kenya, according to Forbes.

The uProxy software, funded by Google but developed by the University of Washington and nonprofit group Brave New Software, is expected to allow users in countries like China to access the Internet as it is seen by a friend in a different, uncensored country.

The software creates an encrypted connection between two users in a way that resembles a virtual private network — a method that savvy Chinese netizens currently use to circumvent the government's Great Firewall, which blocks many social media sites as well as sites deemed politically sensitive.

Al Jazeera and Reuters

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