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UK ISPs Vilify Mozilla For Trying To Secure The Internet

Published: July 9, 2019
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<i>Image Source: <a href='https://www.flickr.com/photos/147019916@N07/31354201186'>Flickr</a></i>
Image Source: Flickr

Over the years, UK ISPs have been forced by the government to censor an increasing array of "controversial" content, including copyrighted material and "terrorist content." In fits and spurts, the UK has also increasingly tried to censor pornography, despite that being a decidedly impossible affair. Like most global censorship efforts, these information blockades often rely on Domain Name Server (DNS) level blacklists by UK ISPs.

Historically, like much of the internet, DNS hasn't been all that secure. That's why Mozilla recently announced it would begin testing something called "DNS over HTTPS," a significant security upgrade to DNS that encrypts and obscures your domain requests, making it difficult to see which websites a user is visiting. Obviously, this puts a bit of a wrinkle in the government, ISP, or other organizational efforts to use DNS records to block and filter content or track user activity.

Apparently thinking they were helping(?), the UK Internet Services Providers’ Association (ISPA), the policy and trade group for UK ISPs, last week thought they'd try and shame Mozilla for... trying to secure the internet. The organization "nominated" Mozilla for the organization's meaningless "internet villain" awards for, at least according to ISPA, "undermining internet safety standards in the UK":

Of course Mozilla is doing nothing of the sort. DNS over HTTPS (which again Mozilla hasn't even enabled yet) not only creates a more secure internet that's harder to filter and spy on, it actually improves overall DNS performance, making everything a bit faster. Just because this doesn't coalesce with the UK's routinely idiotic and clumsy efforts to censor the internet, that doesn't somehow magically make it a bad idea.

Of course, many were quick to note that ISPA's silly little PR stunt had the opposite effect than intended. It not only advertised that Mozilla was doing a good thing, it advertised DNS over HTTPS to folks who hadn't heard of it previously:

The silly PR stunt also reminded everybody how the bigger players in telecom sector (be it in the US, UK, or elsewhere) are usually all too happy to buckle to requests to censor the internet or spy on internet users. That said, one smaller UK ISP, Andrews and Arnold, decided to donate some money to Mozilla:

 

UK spy agency GCHQ and the Internet Watch Foundation (which manages the UK's internet watchlist) have also complained that the DNS security upgrade makes it harder to censor content and spy on users. But again, Mozilla says the effort is simply under discussion, won't be enabled by default, wouldn't break things like parental controls, and there's not even a hard date for deployment yet. For those interested, Cloudflare operates a DNS-over-HTTPS-compatible public DNS server at 1.1.1.1.

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