Tag Archives: Online

Open Tech Fund

I’m excited to be supported by the Open Technology Fund on my research of activist.js. I’ve found myself in highly esteemed company, and hope to live up to goals of program.

Will Scott, a graduate student in the Networking Lab at the University of Washington, will continue his work on Activist.js, a tool that helps publishers resist censorship by maintaining strong websites that are more resilient to network interference.

Read the OTF announcement.

Webrtc-Adapter

WebRTC continues to develop towards an evolving standard, requiring some additional leg work to use it in projects. In yet another attempt at bridging that gap, I’ve been working on maintaining an adapter lessening some of the deviation from standard in current browsers.

https://www.npmjs.org/package/webrtc-adapter

It currently fixes

  • Response of format of getStats in Chrome
  • Translation to ‘url’ from the standard ‘urls’ when configuration is passed to Firefox
  • Emission of the ‘negotiationneeded’ event when a data channel is created in Firefox

The main hope is that this will be easier to include in projects than previous attempts.

Open Proxies

I spent a bit of time last month looking at Open Proxies. They’re are one of the dark corners of the internet that have been around forever but which we still don’t really understand.
It was really cool to get a view into the largely international nature of the servers, get a sense of where they are running, and start to see the SEO fraud and surveillance entities which are co-opting the mechanism.

OpenProxies
More data and the paper submission

Public & Private

I have ended up spending more time than I was expecting over that last few months struggling to figure out where I stand on how much of ones life should be public versus private. I’ve found myself being more private over the last year, somewhat to my dismay, and yet have felt increasingly uncomfortable being more open or publicizing fully what I’m working on. I think more than ever before I foresee my decisions forcing me down a more polarized path than I’ve previously realized.

And yet, the topic that I’ve been privately working on is exactly this issue – building systems for public communication. The core of the issue boils down to the fear that public association with anonymity and privacy issues will lead to increased surveillance and travel restrictions. At the same time, a more fatalistic voice says that I am already easily linked with privacy issues through my digital footprint, and as such I am failing to promote my work without protecting myself from retribution. As such, I am a knowing participant in the “chilling effects” of surveillance, taking fears of travel restrictions and life disruptions as motivations against talking more about privacy and censorship.

This unsettling association around the effects of working on privacy is seemingly pervasive. One indicator is how quickly we attempt to distance ourselves from the vocabulary. Research doesn’t attempt to circumvent censorship, but rather uses “adversary-resilient” protocols to handle “network interference.” I feel like I have unconsciously compensated by working on Code for Seattle, a great, uncontroversial, project supporting civic tech and my local community. Academic papers measuring the behavior of the Internet have been published anonymously presumably due to similar discomfort to what I feel.

My path so far has led me to a ridge that is now falling off precipitously on both sides. To one side is public advocacy of circumvention systems. Down that side are the realizations of the fears above, difficulty traveling, difficulty presenting myself as unbiased, and general polarization. This seems hugely unfortunate: I bear no particular ill will towards the countries I’ve been to, and would love to continue having the ability to travel and define who I am. To the other side is the lure of anonymity, starting over and creating a second identity for sensitive work distanced from ‘me’. Unfortunately, while the lure seems appealing, I believe it is also unachievable. I have seen only a single instance of a ‘successful’ anonymous online persona: that of satoshi, the bitcoin creator.

And so what is left is to continue balancing on that ridge while embracing a diversity of projects so that I can’t be easily labeled. I’m still heading the same direction I set in college and have used to navigate through graduate school: My goal is to make the Internet better.