August 2017 Monthly Report

Mon, 2017-09-18 20:44

In August, the Open Technology Fund continued to both receive a large number of support requests and to support a diverse portfolio of internet freedom projects and fellows addressing internet censorship and surveillance threats in closed societies around the world where the free flow of information is curtailed. This month, OTF’s September 1 application round closed with 45 concept notes received, with the review phase now well underway by the OTF team.

Notable accomplishments

  • OONI released version 1.1.5 of its censorship detection mobile app ooniprobe, featuring remote push notifications and an in-app browser allowing for easy testing of blocked sites. The app is also now available in four new languages: Chinese (China and Taiwan), Japanese, and German. Download ooniprobe for Android here or iOS here.
  • A new Core Infrastructure project, DNSPrivacy, is now under contract with OTF. DNSPrivacy will focus on addressing privacy and security issues prevalent with use of the Domain Name System (DNS), which is an essential, underlying component of nearly all internet traffic. DNS translate hostnames (a website address) to numerical IP addresses, but in the process, a tremendous amount of user metadata is leaked. DNSPrivacy will aim to encourage adoption of DNS-over-TLS (transport layer security) encryption by DNS service providers, with the potential to greatly improve privacy protections for at-risk internet users. Read more about the project here.
  • The Berkeley Counter-Power Lab released the iOS version of its privacy and security-enhancing internet circumvention app. Download the MudHorse Proxy for iOS here.
  • released the free and open source (n+1)sec synchronous protocol and library, built to increase security for group chat clients. The library is built and designed for potential adoption by a multitude of chat clients. The (n+1)sec protocol also underwent a cryptographic and protocol review by NCC Group – that report can be accessed here. Read more about the release and download a test client here.
  • Mailvelope, a browser extension that facilitates email encryption for users of browser based email providers, migrated to OpenPGP.js version 2.5, which brings performance improvements and increased ease of use for Mailvelope users, including making it easier to send and receive large files, and also improved compatibility with the OpenPGP standard. Download Mailvelope here.
  • Net Alert released “Secure Accounts,” a set of resources designed for anyone to increase their digital security. It is available in EnglishTibetantraditional and simplified Chinese, ArabicFrench, and Spanish. Read more about “Secure Accounts” here.
  • New Information Controls Senior Fellow Sergei Hovyadinov will work with the Ranking Digital Rights Project at the Open Technology Institute to provide an in-depth analysis of the role of internet intermediaries in the execution of Russian state controls over the internet and how these companies adjust their operations and transparency practices in other, similar autocratic regimes;
  • New Information Controls Senior Fellow Zack Weinberg will work with the Calipr group at UMass-Amherst on software for continually refining the set of web pages monitored for censorship in various countries, and for assisting with analysis of the censorship policy in these countries; and
  • New Information Controls Senior Fellow Igor Valentovich will work with to conduct a comparative research on the progress of information controls in the former Soviet Union space.
  • A report analyzing the security of chat application LINE (the most used chat app in Japan, Taiwan, Thailand and Indonesia), co-authored by former ICFP fellow Antonio Espinoza, was published by Citizen Lab in August. The report, also presented at the 7th USENIX Workshop Free and Open Communications on the Internet (FOCI), is the first independent analysis of LINE’s security since the application rolled out new security features such as end-to-end encryption. Read the report here.

    Select news collected by OTF from the month of August 2017 – Get the full feed live @OpenTechFund
    China’s VPN developers face crackdown | BBC
    Another Arrest Made Over Facebook Criticism of Hun Sen in Cambodia | The Cambodia Daily
    Journalists under duress: Internet shutdowns in Africa are stifling press freedom | Africa Portal
    In China you now have to provide your real identity if you want to comment online | Quartz
    Several Reported Detained At Moscow Internet-Freedom Rally | RFE/RL
    Vietnam plans to increase internet censorship abilities | The Daily Star
    Measuring the Internet for Freedom | Project Syndicate
    Egypt should stop blocking access to rights organizations’ websites | Committee to Protect Journalists
    Turkey promises to eliminate anti-China media reports | Reuters
    Facebook, YouTube block access in Thailand to 1,800 pages | Nikkei Asian Review

Projects Mentioned