Google just granted $1 million to a team of Georgia Tech researchers in order to enable them to build a “suite of web-based, Internet-scale measurement tools that any user around the world could access for free.” Once released, this test will include traditional speed measurement tools, but most importantly, it is also meant to tell users if their ISPs or governments are tampering with the data they send and receive or artificially slowing down their broadband speeds. The project is funded by Google’s Focused Research program.
Google has long shown an interest in an open Internet free of government interference and traffic shaping. The company released the first tools for detecting whether or not ISPs are engaging in traffic shaping in 2009.
As Wenke Lee, a professor in the School of Computer Science and a principal investigator on the grant notes, tools like this can be useful for those who worry that their governments are interfering with their web traffic:
“Say something happens again like what happened in Egypt recently, when the Internet was essentially shut down. 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.”
Besides detecting potential censorship, though, tools like this are also useful for checking whether your ISP is really giving you the kind of service level you are paying for.
Interestingly, Google is already sponsoring a similar project called MeasurementLab.net (in cooperation with New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute and the PlanetLab Consortium). Measurement Lab just released a large chunk of the data it gathered through its Network Diagnostic Tool using Google’s Public Data Explorer today.