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Jamais Cascio, 4 Dec 03

BoingBoing notes a new program called BadBlue, which lets you view on your work PC material proxy-loaded on your home PC, thereby evading any content restrictions and monitoring one's office may have -- it treats workplace restrictions as damage and routes around it. The main use for this is, unsurprisingly, for adult surfing. While this is of admittedly marginal WorldChanging utility (unless you work in an office which has blocked access to Slashdot), it does remind us of Peekabooty, a similar concept aimed at a very different audience.

Politically repressive regimes fear the free flow of information over the Internet, and censor it with firewalls. Peekabooty is a distributed, peer-to-peer application explicitly intended to bypass national firewalls. In short, it treats political censorship as damage, and routes around it.

Peekabooty is software run by "global-thinking, local-acting" people in countries that do not censor the Internet. A user in a country that censors the Internet connects to the ad hoc network of computers running Peekabooty. A small number of randomly selected computers in the network retrieves the Web pages and relays them back to the user. As far the censoring firewall is concerned, the user is simply accessing some computer not on its "banned" list. The retrieved Web pages are encrypted using the de facto standard for secure transactions in order to prevent the firewall from examining the Web pages' contents. Since the encryption used is a secure transaction standard, it will look like an ordinary e-business transaction to the firewall.

Users in countries where the Internet is censored do not necessarily need to install any software. They merely need to make a simple change to their Internet settings so that their access to the World Wide Web is mediated by the Peekabooty network. Installing the software makes the process of connecting to the Internet simpler and allows users to take fuller advantage of the Peekabooty network.

"Global-thinking, local-acting" people in countries that do not censor the Internet install Peekabooty, which can run "in the background" while they use their computer for their day-to-day work. It doubles as a screen saver that displays its status as well as information about human rights and censortship.

So you're all ready to go and grab a copy of Peekabooty for yourselves, right? Unfortunately, the Peekabooty Project is in a transition from version 1 to version 2 of the software, and no downloads are yet available of the new application. You can be sure that we here at WorldChanging will let you know the minute that changes...

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