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Chairing «Topics on Internet Censorship and Surveillance»

Submitted by gwolf on Mon, 12/03/2018 - 13:07

I have been honored to be invited as a co-chair (together with Vasilis Ververis and Mario Isaakidis) for a Special Track called «Topics on Internet Censorship and Surveillance» (TICS), at the The Eighteenth International Conference on Networks, which will be held in Valencia, Spain, 2019.03.24–2019.03.28, and organized under IARIA's name and umbrella.

I am reproducing here the Call for Papers. Please do note that if you are interested in participating, the relevant dates are those publicized for the Special Track (submission by 2019.01.29; notification by 2019.02.18; registration and camera-ready by 2019.02.27), not those on ICN's site.

Over the past years there has been a greater demand for online censorship and surveillance, as an understandable reaction against hate speech, copyright violations, and other cases related to citizen compliance with civil laws and regulations by national authorities. Unfortunately, this is often accompanied by a tendency of extensively censoring online content and massively spying on citizens actions. Numerous whistleblower revelations, leaks from classified documents, and a vast amount of information released by activists, researchers and journalists, reveal evidence of government-sponsored infrastructure that either goes beyond the requirements and scope of the law, or operates without any effective regulations in place. In addition, this infrastructure often supports the interests of big private corporations, such as the companies that enforce online copyright control.

TICS is a special track the area of Internet censorship, surveillance and other adversarial burdens to technology that bring in danger; to a greater extent the safety (physical security and privacy) of its users.

Proposals for TICS 2019 should be situated within the field of Internet censorship, network measurements, information controls, surveillance and content moderation. Ideally topics should connect to the following , but not limited to:

  • Technical, social, political, and economical implications of Internet censorship and surveillance
  • Detection and analysis of network blocking and surveillance infrastructure (hardware or software)
  • Research on legal frameworks, regulations and policies that imply blocking or limitation of the availability of network services and online content
  • Online censorship circumvention and anti-surveillance practices
  • Network measurements methodologies to detect and categorize network interference
  • Research on the implications of automated or centralized user content regulation (such as for hate speech, copyright, or disinformation)

Please help me share this invitation with possible interested people!
Oh — And to make this more interesting and enticing for you, ICN will take place at the same city and just one week before the Internet Freedom Festival, the Global Unconference of the Internet Freedom Communities ☺

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Privacy and Anonymity Colloquium • Activity program announced!

Submitted by gwolf on Wed, 09/19/2018 - 17:07

It's only two weeks to the beginning of the privacy and anonymity colloquium we will be celebrating at the Engineering Faculty of my University. Of course, it's not by mere chance we are holding this colloquium starts just after the Tor Meeting, which will happen for the first time in Latin America (and in our city!)

So, even though changes are still prone to happen, I am happy to announce the activity program for the colloquium!

I know some people will ask, so — We don't have the infrastructure to commit to having a video feed from it. We will, though, record the presentations on video, and I have the committment to the university to produce a book from it within a year time. So, at some point in the future, I will be able to give you a full copy of the topics we will discuss!

But, if you are in Mexico City, no excuses: You shall come to the colloquium!

On Dmitry Bogatov and empowering privacy-protecting tools

Submitted by gwolf on Fri, 04/14/2017 - 23:53

There is a thorny topic we have been discussing in nonpublic channels (say, the debian-private mailing list... It is impossible to call it a private list if it has close to a thousand subscribers, but it sometimes deals with sensitive material) for the last week. We have finally confirmation that we can bring this topic out to the open, and I expect several Debian people to talk about this. Besides, this information is now repeated all over the public Internet, so I'm not revealing anything sensitive. Oh, and there is a statement regarding Dmitry Bogatov published by the Tor project — But I'll get to Tor soon.

One week ago, the 25-year old mathematician and Debian Maintainer Dmitry Bogatov was arrested, accused of organizing riots and calling for terrorist activities. Every evidence so far points to the fact that Dmitry is not guilty of what he is charged of — He was filmed at different places at the times where the calls for terrorism happened.

It seems that Dmitry was arrested because he runs a Tor exit node. I don't know the current situation in Russia, nor his political leanings — But I do know what a Tor exit node looks like. I even had one at home for a short while.

What is Tor? It is a network overlay, meant for people to hide where they come from or who they are. Why? There are many reasons — Uninformed people will talk about the evil wrongdoers (starting the list of course with the drug sellers or child porn distributors). People who have taken their time to understand what this is about will rather talk about people for whom free speech is not a given; journalists, political activists, whistleblowers. And also, about regular people — Many among us have taken the habit of doing some of our Web surfing using Tor (probably via the very fine and interesting TAILS distribution — The Amnesiac Incognito Live System), just to increase the entropy, and just because we can, because we want to preserve the freedom to be anonymous before it's taken away from us.

There are many types of nodes in Tor; most of them are just regular users or bridges that forward traffic, helping Tor's anonymization. Exit nodes, where packets leave the Tor network and enter the regular Internet, are much scarcer — Partly because they can be quite problematic to people hosting them. But, yes, Tor needs more exit nodes, not just for bandwidth sake, but because the more exit nodes there are, the harder it is for a hostile third party to monitor a sizable number of them for activity (and break the anonymization).

I am coincidentially starting a project with a group of students of my Faculty (we want to breathe life again into LIDSOL - Laboratorio de Investigación y Desarrollo de Software Libre). As we are just starting, they are documenting some technical and social aspects of the need for privacy and how Tor works; I expect them to publish their findings in El Nigromante soon (which means... what? ☺ ), but definitively, part of what we want to do is to set up a Tor exit node at the university — Well documented and with enough academic justification to avoid our network operation area ordering us to shut it down. Lets see what happens :)

Anyway, all in all — Dmitry is in for a heavy time. He has been detained pre-trial at least until June, and he faces quite serious charges. He has done a lot of good, specialized work for the whole world to benefit. So, given I cannot do more, I'm just speaking my mind here in this space.

[Update] Dmitry's case has been covered in LWN. There is also a statement concerning the arrest of Dmitry Bogatov by the Debian project. This case is also covered at The Register.

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On how tech enthusiasts become tech detractors

Submitted by gwolf on Tue, 05/27/2014 - 10:04
On how tech enthusiasts become tech detractors

As often is the case, the Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal webcomic ( gets it right. And I cannot help but share today's comic.

The picture explains it much better than what I ever could.

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