Monday, 8 December 2008

Stop spying on my encyclopedia reading

Recently the unaccountable UK "Internet Watch Foundation" added pages from Wikipedia to a secret list of censored pages.

I would like to make the point that no one should be prosecuted for reading an encyclopedia. Furthermore, no free, democratic society should tolerate authorities spying on people reading works of knowledge.

Let's together stop this spying now.

Here is a simple action that you can take right now, that won't cost you any time or money. When linking to any page on Wikipedia, use the secure URL:
(Replace Main_Page with the name of the Wikipedia page as usual. You can also replace the language (en) or link to commons pages).


Anonymous said...

Or you can use this Greasemonkey script --

Richard Jones said...


Thanks for that link.

I don't really want to leave this to end users. It's better that the vast majority of non-technical encyclopedia readers don't have to do something special to protect themselves from their own government, and by promoting links to the secure site we can ensure they are protected by default. If they need to use Firefox & install a greasemonkey script, then this battle is probably lost.

Of course, better if ALL communications over the net, not just to a single well-known encyclopedia, were encrypted. Mozilla is not helping because of the idiotic Firefox 3 / self-signed SSL policy.

nicu said...

But what does stop the censors to add the secure URL to the blacklist too?

Richard Jones said...


It largely depends what you mean by "add the secure URL to the blacklist".

When using https, all that the ISP/censor sees is the destination IP address and the destination port number, in this case and 443.

Of course the ISP can prevent all traffic to this IP address/port number combo.

However the ISP cannot see inside the encrypted connection, and so doesn't know what URL is being accessed[*]. This an unpalatable choice, even for a censor - blocking the whole of an encyclopedia doesn't look good, and there are perfectly good reasons to use the secure URL, eg. to prevent your WP password being passed around in the clear, or to prevent authorities from spying on the topics you are interested in.


[*] Although with some smart technology they might be able to infer it - the problem is that the images in these secure wikipedia pages aren't being encrypted. Hopefully this is something WP can fix soon.