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Google funds $1m research to stop online snooping

Google is to spend $1 million developing tools to increase Internet transparency, enabling users to detect if their broadband connection is being throttled, uncovering government censorship and other abuses.

Georgia Institute of Technology has been awarded the money to fund two years of development, with the option of an extra $500,000 available for a further year's work.

In a press release, researchers at Georgia Tech said they hope to develop "a suite of Web-based, Internet-scale measurement tools that any user around the world could access for free.

"With the help of these tools, users could determine whether their ISPs are providing the kind of service customers are paying for, and whether the data they send and receive over their network connections is being tampered with by governments and/or ISPs."

Computer science professor Wenke Lee, the team's leader, says the work will create a "transparency ecosystem"- including tools for smartphones and tablet computers, to cater for the current boom in mobile internet access.

Lee says that the new tools could also help the people of countries with oppressive regimes to spot if they are being denied access to information.

"Say something happens again like what happened in Egypt recently, when the Internet was essentially shut down," says Lee. "If we have a community of Internet user-participants in that country, we will know instantly when a government or ISP starts to block traffic, tamper with search results, even alter web-based information in order to spread propaganda."

Last week, members of 'hacktivist' collective Anonymous claimed to have uncovered evidence of US government surveillance plans, alleging that the US government is developing software - code-named 'Metal Gear' by the group - that is deisgned to infiltrate Facebook and other social networks, posing as an army of fake profiles and collecting data to identify users.