Companies Providing Tools to Avoid Internet Censorship are Making Good Bucks

By Dipankar Das, Gaea News Network
Sunday, February 21, 2010

web  A significant number of companies are cashing in on Internet censorship. Users of those countries where Govt implemented Web Filtering System are using external tools to avoid the filtering. Virtual private networks (VPN), proxy servers etc belong to the external tools.

VPNs  creates a Tunnel among servers and encrypt the information with an anonymous computer address. That’s why Web Control is hard to implement.  Proxies also allow unfiltered Internet access but are considered less secure than VPNs. Patrick Lin of California offered Puff, a circumvention technology to bypass any Firewall protection. The paid one costs $16 in addition to a free version. Sixty percent of its 60,000 daily users are from China.

“The reason is the Chinese and the Iranian governments are becoming more aggressive with blocking Web sites,” he told CNN. “If China blocks Gmail, then the user base will increase a lot more rapidly.”

David Gorodyansky, owner of the U.S.-based company AnchorFree, said that its fee VPN Hotspot Shield is used by 1 million people from China. The tool is used by 7 milllion monthly users in 100 countries. Gorodyansky says the company makes money by selling ads that pops up on every web page. Initially, Anchor Free initiated its product for people who are concerned about online identity theft or who are safely using wireless networks in hotels and other public places.

Hotspot Shield and other VPNs and proxies have been temporarily banned by Internet police in China and Iran. Steve Dickenson, a lawyer with International Business firm said that companies supplying VPN products in China are technically breaking Chinese law.

“We just kind of do what we need to do,” said Bill Bullock, head of WiTopia, a Virginia-based company that sells a VPN service, told CNN. “When we see new blocking techniques come out [in China], we have counter measures for those. It is an ongoing battle, we are doing business in a country that does not want us to do business there.”

Although, free proxies are shut down frequently,  VPN subscription hardly faces any wrath from Chinese govt because they mostly target  foreign businesspeople and they are not typical Web users in China. Even though, you are going to have new ways of breaking the firewall, as long as  the authorities have control on the physical access points, in the long term, the authorities have the final say.

Companies running these technologies must constantly outsmart Internet police so that  it is hard for them to figure them out or shut down. Many local users in China can not pay either because they lack access to a foreign credit card or want to use something that is free.

Research also indicates that many Chinese are not willing to use those tools. As per 2007 study conducted by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences,  80 percent of those surveyed backed government control of the Internet.

February 22, 2010: 11:54 am

I am impressed by the numbers of users paying for a VPN service.

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