Privacy Blog

“By continuing the process of inflation, governments can confiscate secretly and unobserved an important part of the wealth of their citizens.” – John Maynard Keynes, writing about the effects of a seemingly small amount of inflation every year.

The Encrypted Version of the Chrome Web Browser is Great News for Anyone Concerned with Online Privacy but Bad News for Protecting Children from Inappropriate Online Content

NOTE: This article contains personal opinions. You have been warned.

I have some good news and some bad news. Which would you like first?

Actually, there is only one bit of news and, in this case, it is both good news and bad news.

Google is all set to introduce a highly encrypted Chrome browser soon. (See http://bit.ly/2GzoETD for the details.) Encrypted Chrome will offer highly secure, encrypted browsing of the World Wide Web. Governments, high-tech companies (Google, Facebook, and others), and hackers will be unable to track users of Encrypted Chrome while users should be able to access most any web sites they wish. That’s the good news.

Not everyone is enthused, however.

For instance, the National Cyber Security Center of the United Kingdom which is a cyber unit of the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) intelligence and security organization is concerned that the introduction of the encrypted browser might hinder their objective of blocking adult content to those under the age of 18.

Currently, the UK government has directed all its internet service providers (ISPs) to block harmful content which has the potential to poison young minds i.e. those under the age of 18. The use of the new Encrypted Chrome reportedly will allow both young and old users to bypass those filters.

You can expect a lot of discussion in future weeks about the capabilities of this new, encrypted browser.

Comment: I see this entire issue as a tempest in a teapot. I suspect most everyone is concerned about protecting children from content that is not appropriate for their age group. However, if anyone really wants to block encrypted browsers, they should have taken action 10 or 20 years ago when encrypted browsers first became available. The fact is that encrypted browsers capable of privately accessing and displaying almost any content on the World Wide Web have been available to everyone for more than 20 years.

With the encrypted browsers that are already available, a 5 or 6 year-old probably won’t figure out a way to view porno or other inappropriate web sites but any intelligent 12 or 14-year-old probably can find out how to do that within a few minutes.

The best-known privacy web browser undoubtedly is TOR, a free and open-source software product for enabling anonymous online communication. TOR includes a secure, encrypted web browser plus an overlay network protocol consisting of more than seven thousand network relays to conceal a user’s location and usage from anyone conducting network surveillance or traffic analysis. The TOR Browser and the included Onion Router software are so secure because it was written by and is used by the U.S. Department of Defense to make sure government online communications are totally secure, unable to be decoded by any evil parties.

TOR (an abbreviation for The Onion Routing) was developed in the mid-1990s and is very popular today. In the more than 20 years it has been available, TOR has become very popular amongst journalists, privacy advocates, government employees of many countries, political protestors in many countries, financial institutions, arms dealers, drug dealers, and even adolescents alike. Any 12 or 14-year-old  or any adult can find information about TOR by using any search engine, and then can download and install the free TOR software on almost any Windows, Macintosh, or Linux computer within minutes. There are even spin-off versions of TOR available for iPhone, iPad, and Android devices as well.

The TOR Web Browser isn’t the only high-security and privacy-protected web browser available. It is simply the best-known encrypted browser and the fact that it is available free of charge makes it very popular. To read about other secure web browsers, look at The Best Privacy and Security-Focused Web Browsers by Alan Henry in the LifeHacker web site at: http://bit.ly/2UUTOyI.

So what’s the big deal with the new encrypted version of the Chrome Web Browser?

It isn’t a NEW threat to anyone. It is simply an ADDITIONAL method of surfing the web in a manner that has already been available for more than 20 years.

If GCHQ and other critics succeed in forcing Google to cancel release of the encrypted version of the Chrome Web Browser, the protection of adolescents from inappropriate content will not be improved one bit.

The best method of protecting children from inappropriate online content hasn’t changed in years: careful monitoring by concerned adults of their children’s online activities.

Categories: Encryption, Online Privacy & Security, Opinion

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