This posts presents a quick opinion on a moral debate, that seems to have taken large proportions at this year’s SIGCOMM, the premier computer networking conference, related to the following paper:
Encore: Lightweight Measurement of Web Censorship with Cross-Origin Requests
by Sam Burnett (Georgia Tech) and Nick Feamster (Princeton).
The paper was accepted to be presented, along with a public review by John W. Byers (Boston) that summarizes very well the paper, and then presents an account of the program committee discussions, primarily focused on research ethics.
In a nutshell the paper proposes using unsuspecting users browsing a popular website as measuring relays to detect censorship. The website would send a page to the users’ browser — that may be in a censored jurisdiction — that actively probes potentially blocked content to establish whether it is blocked. Neat tricks to side-step and use cross domain restrictions and permissions may have other…
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