Google has launched its latest attempt to change the world through the internet.

This time the technology giant has its sights set on facilitating internet freedom for people in countries where the web is restricted.

Under software it’s still developing with the University of Washington, Google plans to help users avoid censorship by accessing the internet through a friend’s web browser… thousands of miles away.

In fact, the plan is to give restricted users access to an internet browser that’s so far away, it’s in another country – another country that enjoys comparative internet freedom.

Here’s a clip from Google’s uProxy video, launched at the Ideas Summit in New York this week:

“It’s called uProxy. It’s an extension for your web browser that lets you and the people you trust create your own secure route through the internet. Wherever you are, you can access the internet safely through your own or a trusted friend’s private connection.

“All you and your friend need to do is have uProxy installed. Then you’ll know for sure, that when you’re sending things you care about through the internet, you’re sending them through a safer, more secure and private connection.”

Jonathon Strickland is a technology reporter with the website and podcast How Stuff works.

“I think it’s really encouraging. I love the idea of opening this up as a peer-to-peer kind of approach where people who have trusted connections to the internet can open up their connections to people who might be in areas where they don’t have that sort of free access.”

But Jonathon Strickland points out, the uProxy system hinges on a high level of trust between users.

“My reservations mainly come from the fact that there’s a lot of trust that’s built into this system.

“As long as that trust is well founded, everything works fine but if someone is not careful then you have a whole host of problems.

“For example, if you have a secure connection and I do not, and we have built this relationship of trust and you allow me to use your computer to surf the internet – essentially my traffic is routing through your computer.

“And then I start looking at this, illegal information or material, anything that could be considered criminal activity, it’s going through your computer.”

uProxy is being mooted as something of a breakthrough for internet users in countries like China and Iran, where the internet is heavily censored.

But Professor Michel Hockx, the director of the SOAS China institute, says using proxy servers is nothing new.

“Well everybody is already using proxy servers to get around the Firewall: Western Universities operating in China, Western companies operating in China, Chinese people who know enough about computers to do this, everybody is using proxy servers to get access to Facebook and Twitter and YouTube.

“So in that sense, if Google is doing this now it’s not something new, it’s already being done.

“But knowing Google they might be able to do it on a bigger or more commercial basis.”

Professor Hockx explains there are three levels of internet censorship operating in China today: keyword filters that block searches for particular terms; people who monitor internet content and demand sensitive material be taken down and then there’s the Chinese government’s most effective weapon - the Firewall.

“The Firewall prevents people from accessing certain websites outside China. So it’s like a protective layer around the whole of China which makes it impossible to connect your computer to websites that are on the list of unwanted things.

"That’s the main thing. That’s really where the Chinese government has put something in place that controls what comes in.”

GreatFire is an online campaign group that monitors and reports on the Great Firewall of China.

One of the people behind it, Charlie Smith, emailed me this statement about uProxy:

“It is great to see that Google is attempting something like this and dedicating their vast resources to such a project. It shows the importance they attach to a free internet. Having said that, it is important to note a few points regarding uProxy.

"First, Google's plan has to be realised. They are testing it and trying to get it to work and this is actually pretty important because some similar initiatives previously did not work.

"Also, if governments wanted to crack down on uProxy, they could simply block Chrome. It is mostly non-existent in China and Firefox does not have a large share here either.”

Google says uProxy could also be used by people wanting a more secure Wi-Fi service, so they could direct their internet usage on the move through their secure internet connection at home.

(Voice of Russia)