Magazine article Foreign Policy

The Route Less Traveled

Magazine article Foreign Policy

The Route Less Traveled

Article excerpt

IT'S NO SECRET THAT privacy is under attack. Criminal hackers want to steal identities, companies want to sell individuals' data, and governments want to know exactly who is talking to whom. In fact, Reporters Without Borders lists 19 countries as "enemies of the Internet"--Syria, Iran, Russia, Pakistan, North Korea, and China, to name a few--dubbed as such for practicing pervasive surveillance and censorship. But even in the United States, tech firms have been fighting government demands for backdoor encryption keys, which would provide user data and jeopardize user privacy. It seems one thing is the same no matter where ordinary citizens are: They lack protection.

When a person sends data over the Internet--for example, when accessing a website's content or when sending an email--the data, in order to move quickly, are broken into smaller data "packets," which don't necessarily travel together. Not only do users have little to no control over how these packets go from one place to another, but they have no control over which countries the network will route them through. Even if the sender and recipient are in the same country, packets could be routed through another nation if the users' network determines that's faster. …

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