You Have the Right to Surf Anonymously--Or Do You?

Your freedom—at what price? If you ask Canadian-based Zero Knowledge Systems (ZKS), the company will tell you that Freedom costs $49.95. Freedom is a relatively new way of anonymously surfing the Internet, and the technology is creating a stir on many fronts. For end users, Freedom is an application that you install on your workstation to redirect significant portions of your network traffic through a complex network of proxy servers over an encrypted transport. Freedom prevents discovery of the exact path that the traffic takes, as well as your real IP address.

Freedom dynamically chains proxy servers together and forces traffic to hop between no less than three proxies before that traffic reaches its final destination. So what's the point? Anonymity. Freedom is the first product I've seen that stretches the boundaries of anonymity to a realistically acceptable level. Without the assistance of ZKS and Freedom server operators, a Web site can't trace users to their origin, and ZKS collects no substantial information on any user that can identify that user. The fact that a user can remain anonymous has US law enforcement concerned at local and federal levels. And I suppose the fact that ZKS is outside of US jurisdiction doesn't make US law officials feel any better about this new tool.

Law enforcement officials worry that users will use Freedom to commit crimes such as sending abusive email, spreading child pornography, or trading pirated software. And although officials are probably justified in that concern, their concern has little to do with the Freedom product in my opinion. For example, you might worry about getting mugged or shot, but that worry is no reflection on the Smith and Wesson gun company; it's a reflection of the shooter and the people responsible for properly raising that shooter in today's society. So to me, the law enforcement concerns are moot points. Law enforcement officials are barking up the wrong tree.

I think Freedom provides a valuable service to the community. So many agencies are trying to chip away at our privacy in America that I think Freedom might force some kind of showdown. With so much attention focusing on the new Freedom network, it's likely that in the near future, the free world will have to draw more definitive legal lines in the sand regarding privacy.

I've always thought that privacy was a commonsense issue based on mutual respect; that's how I think about any kind of weaponry, no matter how subtle—computers and networks included. But someone else's perceived need for information and control often outweighs respect for privacy.

As a result, our First and Second Amendment rights in America remain under acute attack, all in the name of improving society. Were it not for the misconstrued ideals of these privacy violators, ZKS probably wouldn't have needed to create Freedom in the first place. How ironic.

So if you need anonymity on the Internet, check out the Freedom Network. But be advised, Freedom currently runs only on Windows 9x. A Windows NT version, as well as Linux and Mac versions, are in the works. Until next time, have a great week.

TAGS: Security
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