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Sunday, March 16, 2014

Confusing the Censors. Google on a White Horse?

Articles in this news this week, in regards to new encryption techniques, paint Google in a very chivalrous role. I was tempted to illustrate this post with an Arthurian knight on a milk-white steed. However, the real hero here may well be the patient end-user who works around censorship on a day-to-day basis.

How might  this weeks move by Google to encrypt searches, impact regular folks here and in China?

For me... nothing much. If I want to search for information about Mao Hengfeng, a woman human rights activist in China, I can do so here in the San Francisco Bay Area. But very likely I won't get any results with the same search in mainland China.

Google's new implementation of search encryption could mean that my search will no longer be waylaid by government censors. Whether at home or abroad, I should now be able to bring up her wikipedia, and other, web pages.

But there's another way to carry out this search in China, and it uses techniques (Do we notice the connection to technology?)  that have been in use since power struggling between people first began. Anybody whose ever read Sherlock Holmes or a WWII spy-thriller knows how this works. The method involves someone in or outside of the community setting up coded words and phrases. If I want to search on Mao Hengfeng in Peking, very likely I know, or I ask around, until I find out her alternate name. And once the censors figure out the code and ban it by digital censorship, than the word gets out in the underground about a new name or phrase that brings up the same information.

Chinese censors are probably already at work figuring out a way around Google's encrypted searches, but regular people, using technology as old as the hills, are one step ahead of Google's white horse.
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Web Resources

NPR Avoiding the Great Firewall Internet Censors:

Mao Hengfeng:

Silicon Valley Tech News