Wednesday, 18 July 2018 11:05

US pollies ask Google, Amazon to reconsider domain-fronting ban

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Two US politicians have written to the heads of Alphabet, the parent company of Google, and Amazon asking them to reconsider their decisions to prohibit domain-fronting, something that is used to avoid Internet censorship.

In a letter dated 17 July, Democrat Senator Ron Wyden and Republican Senator Marco Rubio said they were "deeply concerned that this decision will have a detrimental effect on human rights and Internet freedom around the world".

Google announced that it would be banning domain-fronting in April while Amazon did so in May.

According to Wikipedia, domain-fronting is "a technique that circumvents Internet censorship by hiding the true endpoint of a connection. Working in the application layer, domain-fronting allows a user to connect to a blocked service over HTTPS, while appearing to communicate with an entirely different site".

Wyden and Rubio said in their letter, addressed to Alphabet chief executive Larry Page and Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos, "Both your companies have benefitted enormously from the free and open Internet protected by the US and its allies.

"Indeed, your previous role in facilitating these Internet freedom tools by permitting domain-fronting was neither a mistake nor a secret. Senior Google officials have publicly referenced traffic obfuscation with admiration and support."

They said the recent decisions by the two companies to ban domain-fronting would prevent millions in countries like China, Iran, Russia and Egypt from accessing some websites.

"Dissidents, pro-democracy activists, and protesters living under authoritarian regimes need access to secure communications enabled by domain fronting techniques to stay safe and organise," they said.

Wyden and Rubio sought answers to two questions from Page and Bezos:

  • What steps did your companies take, prior to prohibiting domain-fronting, to determine whether it was possible to prohibit its use by malicious actors, while still permitting positive uses, including US. government-supported internet freedom tools?
  • After deciding to take action to limit the use of domain fronting, what efforts, if any, did your companies take to minimise the disruption to US Government-supported Internet freedom tools and platforms relied on by human rights activists, journalists, members of faith communities and civil society groups? What steps have your companies taken, or do you plan to take, to mitigate the effect that your decision to end domain-fronting has had on internet anti-censorship tools and platforms?

They urged Bezos and Page to reconsider the decision to ban domain-fronting.

Link to the letter: courtesy Cyberscoop

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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