Google is backing up its stated vision of an unfettered Internet by developing a number of free services designed to make the web more secure and accessible to all.
The giants of the web are on a mission to make the Internet accessible to everyone and to protect its users’ freedom of expression, and some of them are now developing tools designed to protect websites and networks against malevolent attacks. This initiative, spearheaded by major online players such as Facebook and Amazon,aside from its obvious humanitarian motives, also looks set to develop new markets that are still today isolated but have valuable potential. Google is now instigating a step-change, no longer aiming just to promote widespread Internet availability but also to ensure a continuous, untrammeled service on the one hand by providing free-of-charge protection for websites against cyber-attacks, and an approach based on connection-sharing for individual people on the other.
Worldwide protection free of charge
At the Conflict in a Connected World event held on 20-22 October in New York, Google Ideas– the Google laboratory it describes as a ‘think/do tank’, announced the Project Shield initiative. Using the expertise built up by the company,the idea behind the Shield is to enable website owners to serve their content through Google in order to withstand malicious distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks. This type of attack involves saturating a target machine with fictitious external communications requests, to the point where it cannot respond tolegitimate traffic. In fact the New York Times recently fell victim to a DDoS attack. Google has not yet revealed the technical details of the Shield – a beta version of which has been tested in Kenya– but stated that the service will be free of charge and available worldwide. “There are billions of people around the world living in environments that severely restrict their free expression,” pointed outGoogle Ideas Director Jared Cohen, explaining: “We want to empower them to have access to the same Internet that the rest of us experience.”
Drawing on networks of trusted friends
Google Ideas also recently announced the launch of another new product,uProxy, developed in partnership with the University of Washington and non-profit firm Brave New Software.The product is a web-browser extension that uses peer-to-peer technology to allow people around the world to provide one another with a trusted Internet connection. The designers were inspired by the existing networks of trusted friends – whereby users in more open countries agree to share their secure connection. uProxy works in the same way as a personalized VPN, allowing a user for example to share his/her unfiltered connection with a citizen from a country where the government maintains strict control over online content. This interesting move might herald the advent of an Internet which is truly free of government interference.