Anonymous surfing: another casualty of the war

The new world order - anti-terrorism, or anti-freedom?

The new world order - anti-terrorism, or anti-freedom?

On the day after the UK government's anti-terrrorism legislation got almost universal approval from the House of Commons, it's interesting to note how the internet industry is also dumping its usual pro-privacy stance and hurriedly signing up to the slightly paranoid 'surveillance first, civil liberties later' attitude currently washing over Western capitalist societies. During the last couple of months, two web services, which protected the identity of their users, were shut down. This is partly because of the bleaker economic climate of course, but also no doubt for fear of being branded abettors of terrorism. Last month, Canadian web services company Zero-Knowlege said it was going to close its Freedom Network, which allowed users to surf the web and send email anonymously. Similar services have been shut down this week by SafeWeb, and now both companies are looking at how they can use their expertise to make money in the more 'acceptable' security markets. Security, like videoconferencing, is one of the only technologies experiencing any excitement after the terrible events of 11 September. Of course, we in the 'free West' didn't really need anonymous surfing. It was more for the peoples of China and Iran (among others), who had been forbidden to access much web content. For a time, government agencies like the CIA felt it their duty to protect these people's rights to surf wherever they want, which is why it helped finance SafeWeb. Now the conflict has turned from electronic to ballistic, it appears that the freedom to surf is no longer important. Never fear though, there is one lone guardian still fighting for your right to surf privately. Anonymizer.com is still running a privacy service for $50 a year. Whether the beleaguered surfers of China and Iran have credit cards is a moot point.