The Past, Present and Future of Circumvention Tools
Circumvention tools are used to bypass internet censorship and avoid surveillance on the internet. Some of these tools have been around for a while now, and are being increasingly used by different people in different settings to achieve different purposes on the internet. Some of the reasons why people use circumvention tools are:
- To reach blocked websites
- To avoid being surveilled online by governments
- To avoid being surveilled online by businesses and other entities
- To be anonymous for blogging or journalism purposes
- Their online security has been compromised in the past
- To generally manage their identity online
Many people have these and other needs on the internet, but do not use circumvention tools. Part of our work is to discover what discourages people from using these tools; is it simply that they do not know of them, or that they are afraid of using them, or is it because they slow down their connection, or because none of the existing tools are available in their preferred languages, or is it because existing tools seem too techy for most people, etc.? Using the answers to these questions, we will be able to provide guidelines to the present and future developers of circumvention tools.
What will it take to ultimately make the internet free and open for everyone?
This particular survey is focused on reaching out to present users of circumvention tools, to find out what needs are currently being met by existing tools, and what challenges with online communication are not being addressed by these existing tools. We are also reaching out to people who have never used circumvention tools through this survey, to discover, from people in different parts of the world, what limits freedom on the internet, and perhaps why they have never resorted to circumvention tools to overcome their challenges with freedom and openness on the internet.
At an internet-focused meeting I attended recently, someone asked, “how can we help people have the freedom and privacy that they need online, without breaking the internet?” Well, this question was directed towards internet engineers(those people who define standards and protocols for the internet), but it got me thinking: on the internet, as in life overall, people need to be safe, feel safe, and live safely, even if they do not know how to protect themselves. What will it take to make the internet this kind of place for even the least knowledgeable internet user – in internet protocols and policies, and in applications developed over the current version of the internet?
Some of the articles that I have read on circumvention are:
- “Ten things to look for in a circumvention tool” – Tor
- “How To Choose the Right Circumvention Tool” – Movements.org
- “Bypassing Internet Censorship” – Floss Manuals
- “2010 Circumvention Tool Usage Report “ – Roberts, H.