April 30 2020 GM

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Community Updates:

  • In India, we saw some probable targeted attacks over SMS to a few Indian journalists.
  • The Indian central government is passing orders making use of their app mandatory for gig workers, and even pushing for mandatory pre-installation on new phones.
  • In Bali, Indonesia, a few days ago the government just sent everyone an SMS stating that "your phone's IMEI is registered in our system, don't be afraid and stay at home."
  • The Taiwan government wants to change the personal id card into a digital ID for "everyone" this year.

Conversation Topic: OONI

Our featured guests are Maria and Arturo, and you can find them on Mattermost by: @agrabeli and @hellais. OONI is a free software project that measures internet censorship around the world. OONI started back in 2011/2012 to develop open methods for examining various forms of internet censorship, such as the blocking of websites and apps. The great thing is that anyone can help, simply by downloading the tool, and it just runs in the background. OONI is a community project, as their work depends on results collected by community members around the world. OONI makes the tool as easy to use to enable adoption. Now OONI basically works in the following 3 areas:

  1. They build free software that you can run to measure internet censorship. This software is called OONI Probe, and you can install in on mobile and desktop platforms
  2. OONI openly publishes censorship measurements collected from around the world. To increase transparency of internet censorship, as soon as you run OONI Probe, your test results are automatically sent to us and published. You can find all OONI measurements here.
  3. They publish research reports based on censorship findings. To help interpret OONI data and share relevant findings with the world, they collaborate with local partners on analyzing OONI data and sharing findings through research reports.

OONI has released a new desktop app with many new features.

  • Some exciting new features include the following:
  1. It includes a new Tor test. This test is not currently available in the mobile app, and it enables you to measure the blocking of Tor. You can learn how this test works here.
  2. It includes a new Psiphon test. This test enables you to measure the blocking of the Psiphon app (similarly, this is currently only available in the desktop app). Learn how this test works here.
  3. You can perform more extensive website testing. When you click "Run" on the Websites card in the app, you will test more than 1,000 websites (included in the Citizen Lab test lists). The desktop app allows for more extensive website testing in comparison to the mobile app, where users can have bandwidth constraints.

When talking about practical cases, how OONI could help someone in Egypt, for example that noticed a website was blocked?

  • There are many ways to test websites, depending on whether you want to test something quickly on the spot, or if you want to enable long-term testing of certain websites in a country. Currently, the fastest way to test the websites of your choice (particularly if you hear that a specific website is blocked) is through the OONI Probe mobile app.
  • If you tap on the Websites card inside the OONI Probe mobile app, you will find a "Choose websites" button. By tapping on the "Choose websites" button, you can add all the websites you want to test and test them on the spot.
  • Alternatively, if you want to coordinate testing (because you're not physically in Egypt or because you want people to run tests on more networks), you can do so through the following steps:
  1. Add those websites in the URL slots here
  2. Click "Generate"
  3. Share the generated link with other OONI Probe users
  • As soon as they open the link with their OONI Probe mobile app, they will see which websites you want them to test, and they can test them by tapping "Run"

When asking for the non-tech savvy community, Github is a little complicated, how can people submit the URLs to Citizen Lab's test lists without using Github?

  • It's probably worth noting that the canonical websites you will test when you tap/click "Run" on the Websites card (whether desktop or mobile app) are included in the Citizen Lab test lists
  • And we share a guide which explains how to contribute to these test lists here
  • But if you're not a GitHub user, we encourage you to drop an email (contact@openbservatory.org) to share the URLs that you would like us to add to the GitHub lists for you.
  • Open Observatory aims to create a web platform that will enable the process of contributing to test lists, so that you can easily add and remove URLs without having to use GitHub.

We dig more in practical scenarios and ask what might be the risks involved when a person/client running OONI is detected. The risks vary from country to country, depending on local laws and regulations, the user's threat model, etc. Learn more here. In general though, OONI tries to collect as little data as possible in order to avoid putting users at risk. See OONI's Data Policy and principles.

When asked if OONI has a special program/plan to get people to run OONI in countries with low OONI usage and high risk of censorship, Arturo and Maria answer that they don't have a special program, but they work through the Partnership Program.

When it comes to the relationship between OONI and Amazon, it is interesting to see how dependent is OONI on Amazon, and what data is stored on Amazon infrastructure. OONI uses S3 storage for offering fast access to our raw network measurement data as we get it for free as part of the AWS Open Data program. OONI’s core infrastructure is sponsored by Greenhost through eclips.is. If the AWS Open Data were to go away, OONI could just offer the data from their core infrastructure. It would just mean that people accessing the data would not get as good performance as they would get on S3.

  • The OONI dataset can be fetched from the Amazon S3 bucket. They publish OONI data (i.e. censorship measurements from around the world) on the following resources:
  1. OONI Explorer
  • If you're interested in analyzing OONI data in batch, you can fetch it from the Amazon S3 bucket and use their big data analysis tooling. Learn more here.

When asking about what guidance OONI recommends to projects/tools trying to build their own community in an ethical, respectful way, generally speaking, it's important to be honest and transparent about how a tool works, what it does, what it does not do, what benefits users may have from using it, but also what risks may result from that. It's important to support informed decision making when engaging community members, and to be mindful of the diverse backgrounds and needs of different community members.

  • All tests results are automatically published on OONI Explorer (in near real-time) here.