The front page of today’s Globe and Mail had a piece on a project/application called Psiphon, which is aimed at helping those in closed societies circumvent government restrictions. Created by Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto, Psiphon “works by giving monitored computer users a way to send an encrypted request for information to a computer located in a secure country. That computer finds the information and sends it back, also encrypted.”

If you’re interested in the technical details, take a look at the Psiphon Final Report [pdf], a document produced just over a year ago for the Department of Computer Science at U of T.

On a less technical level, Citizen Lab is worth a look:

A “hothouse” that brings together social scientists, filmmakers, computer scientists, activists, and artists, the Citizen Lab sponsors projects that explore the cutting-edge of hypermedia technologies and grassroots social movements, civic activism, and democratic change within an emerging planetary polity. Note: no lawyers among the cast of s**t disturbers: sigh.

If what you see really interests you, you can volunteer or submit a project proposal. The OpenNet Initiative, of which Citizen Lab’s Psiphon is a part, is “is currently looking for volunteers that are fluent in Chinese, Vietnamese, Arabic, Persian/Farsi and are interested in participating in research on the Internet policies of various countries. Contact for more information.”

Another project of the Citizen Lab that might interest Slawyers is civiblog, a free blogging service aimed at supporting free civil society.

One final note: because Psiphon uses port 443 on a computer, the port that’s used for the secure transfer of data, particularly financial data — the “https” you’ll notice when on a secure site — , and because it relies on encryption to hide from Big Brother, I wonder how the US will “feel” about it, and whether it might not be put to uses deemed nefarious by governments of less closed societies.

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