Circumvention is not privacy! Evaluation and comparison of common Internet Circumvention Tools

Published 17 Dec 2011 by Alberto Escudero-Pascual

bulletDownload: Circumvention_Tools_Evaluation_44.pdf

S.T.U.P.ID. Evaluation Matrix
(Sustainability, Trust, Usability, Privacy and Infrastructure Development!)

As a result of the multiple attempts to block the content in the Internet, several projects that fall under the category of circumvention technologies has became widely spread.

Circumvention tools are primarily designed to bypass Internet filtering, the core principle behind the technologies is to bounce the connections using one or more collaborative servers.

This report offers a technical review of ten different projects and a practical methodology to evaluate them. The review aims to make accessible an area of knowledge for those interested in circumvention but not necessary enjoy reading dozen of acronyms or installing all the tools available.

One of our first findings performing this review is that comparing the initiatives has not been a simple task, developing a simple evaluation criteria is far from straightforward and many solutions are black boxes that require reverse engineering to gain understanding of their functionality. We have accepted the challenge to develop a digestible methodology that looks at the tools under five basic categories: sustainability, trustworthiness, usability, privacy and infrastructure.

As a result of the evaluation we have identified twenty criteria that can be used to assess the suitability of a tool. Our major finding is that tools designed for circumvention are not necessary suitable for privacy protection and there is not enough awareness about the risk involved in using technologies that can be easily spotted.

A major recommendation of this work is that investments in this area should focus on suitable business models, usability and ultimately technical solutions that can scale up taking advantage of peer-to-peer infrastructures. Not all users need to hide their use of circumvention tools but those who are and live at risk should be fully aware of what circumvention tools can and can not provide.

Keyword(s): Data Protection, Freedom of expression, Human Rights, Location Privacy, Privacy, Security, Traffic data,