Freedom of Expression,  Iran

One guy doing good

The National Public Radio program “On the Media” featured an interview with a California computer programmer named Austin Heap, who has developed a software to help Iranians get around Internet censorship.

Haystack is a new program designed to provide unfiltered internet access to the people of Iran. The software package is compatible with Windows, Mac and Unix systems, and specifically targets the Iranian government’s web filtering mechanisms.

Haystack is not an ordinary proxy system. It employs a sophisticated mathematical formula to hide users’ real Internet traffic inside a continuous stream of innocuous-looking requests. In addition to providing anonymity, Haystack uses strong cryptography, ensuring that even if users’ traffic is detected, it cannot be read. Trying to find and decipher our users’ traffic amidst all the other traffic on the web really is like trying to find a needle in the proverbial Haystack.

Once installed Haystack will provide completely uncensored access to the internet from Iran while simultaneously protecting the user’s identity. No more Facebook blocks, no more government warning pages when you try to load Twitter or access news sites — just unfiltered Internet.

Heap, who is providing the software free of charge to Iranians, is seeking donations of servers, bandwidth and cash.

He was recently named the MediaGuardian’s Innovator of the Year.