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Citizen Lab
Jamais Cascio, 23 May 04

Citizen Lab is an interdisciplinary laboratory based in Toronto, Canada, looking at the intersection of digital media and civic activism. Functioning something as a DARPA for digital freedom, Citizen Lab serves as a seed-bed for a variety of very cool and interesting projects focusing on identifying, analyzing, and resisting efforts to censor and lock down information networks. Citizen Lab is the umbrella for a couple of other ongoing projects, Infowar Monitor and the OpenNet Initiative. Infowar Monitor, run in cooperation with the Cambridge Programme for Security in International Society, is a good resource if you're interested in ongoing developments in information and network-centric warfare; OpenNet Initiative, run with CPSIS and with the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard, looks more closely at censorship and surveillance.

The main site is a blog-like listing of updates about net surveillance, censorship, and the like, pulled from both mainstream and niche sources, along with links to its various projects. Aside from Infowar Monitor and OpenNet Initiative, Citizen Lab is also working on a project called "Rhizome," which will "remotely interrogate the networks of censoring countries and securely transfer the results to a database node network for analysis and storage" (responding to the fact that most filter systems, both commercial and governmental, keep the lists of what they censor secret), and a project called "Psiphon," a distributed proxy project to allow computer users in controlled regions to surf the web freely. If this latter one sounds familiar, it's because another project, Peek-a-Booty, took a similar approach. Peek-a-booty, unfortunately, appears to be dead; its site hasn't been updated since December, 2003.

For an infowar and sousveillance geek like me, the Citizen Lab site provides hours of fascinating reading. But one of the most powerful Citizen Lab-supported efforts linked from the site has little to do with computer networks, and will be compelling stuff for many WorldChanging readers. The Kandahar Chronicles tell the story of the day-to-day life of a Médicins Sans Frontières worker in Kandahar, Afghanistan, from August 2003 through February 2004. Good stuff.

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