Open Proxies, a Route to Freedom of Speech ?

Well they have been, in many, many countries. In Iran there is a fevered search for proxies to use, as the Government tightens their grip on free access to the Internet. Many countries which apply a dictatorial approach to internet access are often not terribly advanced in their methods.

However in Iran they have followed and improved on the Western governments way of snooping on their citizens. In the West, European and US legislation is used to force the ISPs to store our data and internet logs - so they can be accessed when required.

open proxies
In Iran they have gone one stage further, they actively control the ISPs, which means that in effect that all the internet users of Iran have to pass their data through their government hands.

Now thankfully for some, these techniques are not that sophisticated - throttling bandwidth speeds down to discourage video and media transfers is hardly high tech. Censorship is largely controlled manually using top level domain names, social networking sites such as twitter, facebook are obvious targets.

But as James Cowie put it in his article The Proxy Fight for Iranian Democracy -

If you put 65 million people in a locked room, they're going to find all the exits pretty quickly, and maybe make a few of their own.

Rather well put I thought, and it is indeed true, but as the article illustrates. Most of this escaping is taking the rather primitive method of using random open proxies to bypass these filters.

There are two main issues in my mind regarding this -

1) Public Open Proxies are that - well public and open, get blocked rather easily. Like content filters which many firms use to block access at your workplace, it's rather simple to get someone to add lists of these proxies which are also blocked. Publicly available proxies don't last long wherever they are when the word is spread across the internet. The proxy finding tools which produce lists of these public proxies can be used just as easily by Iranian censors.

2) Perhaps more worrying, from the tales of brutality and torture - if you control the ISP then you have access to all the data passing out from your citizens. Here we are all in the same boat, our ISP knows everything we do online, everywhere we go and everything we download. Every Government knows this, and has put it's own laws, policies and procedures in place but in Iran it may be even more worrying.

The power of an ISP to spy on it's users, is almost complete, the Iranians can identify who are using these proxies, they can identify when someone uploads media to a social networking site - just as any ISP can anywhere in the world.

I use a system which prevents this monitoring as my web browsing is encrypted as well, but it could be argued that in somewhere like Iran that might be just as dangerous, the authorities wouldn't know what I was doing but they might just check on who they couldn't monitor.
are proxies enough

Of course what we really should do is stop all our governments having access to these ISPs and ISP logs but alas it's already too late in most countries and I include Europe and the US in that statement, perhaps proxies, open proxies and encryption are our only hope!