At its Ideas Summit in New York, Google has announced that it is working on developing a browser extension that will act as an easy-to-use way to bypass country-specific Internet censorship and make connections safer and more private.
The tool, which was developed by the University of Washington and seeded by Google, is at its core a peer-to-peer personalized virtual private network (VPN) that redirects Internet traffic coming from an initial, less secure connection through a second, trusted connection, and then encrypts the pathway between the two terminals.
Whenever you access the Internet, the connection is routed through a number of terminals. At each step of the way the connection may beblocked, surveilled, or even tampered with (especially if the data is not encrypted). On the whole, the safety and privacy of your data is only as good as the weakest link in the chain.
Google’s solution with uProxy was to develop a tool that makes it much easier to make an unsafe connection more secure, with the help of a trusted friend.
The software, which will be available as a Chrome and Firefox extension to begin with, can use existing social networks like Facebook or Google Hangouts to help find users who already have uProxy installed on their system. If two users agree to use the service in tandem, the software can begin to make data connections safer.
How it works
Let’s assume that Alice, who lives in a country with an Internet censorship problem such as China or Iran, contacts Bob, who has much safer, or uncensored, or unmonitored access to the Internet.
Bob agrees to act as a proxy for Alice, and as long as his browser is open, Alice’s outgoing web traffic will now be routed through Bob’s connection, and so she’ll now be able to access websites that she wouldn’t otherwise be able to reach on her own. The connection between Alice and Bob is also encrypted.
To an external observer looking at Bob’s connection, it would appear that he is simply surfing the net, while it is really Alice who’s doing the browsing. Likewise, an observer looking at Alice’s connection would only see a stream of encrypted data being sent from and to Bob, but would not be able to understand it, or determine whether it’s “allowed” web traffic or not.
One more possible use for the software could be to proxy your own web traffic whenever you are traveling and worried about the safety of your connection (when you’re connecting to an open Wi-Fi hotspot or public network, for example). In cases like these, you can use uProxy to route your web traffic back to your home computer and access the Web as if you were in your own home.