As part of an ongoing campaign for privacy, PiratPartiet, the Swedish Pirate Party, are giving their backing to a new anonymizing service called Relakks
, which, unlike proxies, promises no loss of speed on any internet service – including P2P.
The Pirate Party
is working towards three goals: shared culture, free knowledge, and protected privacy.
As part of the fight for privacy, the party aims to win seats in the Swedish parliament in the upcoming national elections in September. This will place them in a position to begin fulfilling an election promise to work on turning the tide against Sweden becoming a surveillance state.
In the meantime, PiratPartiet hope to start spreading privacy, in both Sweden and around the world, using technical means.
"There are many legitimate reasons to want to be completely anonymous on the Internet," Rickard Falkvinge, chairman of the Pirate Party, said in a press statement. "If the government can check everything each citizen does, nobody can keep the government in check. The right to exchange information in private is fundamental to the democratic society. Without a safe and convenient way of accessing the Internet anonymously, this right is rendered null and void."
The service, which costs €5 (US$6.4) a month, does not just provide anonymity while surfing. All internet traffic, including P2P, Instant Messaging and VoIP, is anonymized by the service.
Relakks can afford this as it operates differently to proxies, which are traditionally used for anonymity.
The Relakks website explains:
“The Service consists of an encrypted VPN tunnel between your computer and RELAKKS. The IP-number you receive from your existing ISP is only used to connect your computer to RELAKKS, from there on RELAKKS substitute your existing IP-number with a new IP-number from RELAKKS. This gives you a number of advantages:
• Your existing ISP will not be able to intercept and track your applications or communication
• Your existing ISP can not limit what you can do nor limit what information you can access
• Other organizations or individuals can’t intercept or track your applications or communication.”
Falkvinge explained further to Slyck.com, “When you have connected to the Internet using your regular provider, you open up an encrypted tunnel to the Relakks service center, and that becomes your new ‘point of origin’ on the Internet, Anybody who wants to snoop on your activities, read your mail, etc, cannot do so through the encrypted tunnel, and if they want to know who is behind address x.y.z, then they will end up in the Relakks center, which will not give it to them (they don't even have the data).”
Relying on one company with all online privacy throws up issues of trust. By sitting in the middle of all communications, Relakks is given potential access to all passwords, bank details and politically sensitive information.
Asked about this, Falkvinge replied, “And this is the key question. Basically, we are saying that we trust them, and that is because we know the people involved, who have been fighting very hard for the right to anonymous access. They were key players in Sweden's early Internet development.”
If users feel a need for privacy from political parties, then it is arguably contradictory to trust a company with close ties to a politically party for that privacy. All political parties say they are fighting for freedom.
This puts the Pirate Party in an awkward position.
“[I]t's a matter of trust. We are all, and must be, defined by our actions,” Falkvinge replied to the conundrum.
Tools for privacy and anonymity are liable to being used for copyright infringement and piracy, but Falkvinge argues that the issues run deeper than this.
“The new technology has brought society to a crossroads,” he explained. “The only way to enforce today's unbalanced copyright laws is to monitor all private communications over the Internet. Today's copyright regime cannot coexist with an open society that guarantees the right to private communication.
"Until we have changed the laws to ensure that citizens' right to privacy is respected, we have a moral obligation to protect the citizens from the effects of the current routine surveillance."