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U.S. digital spying mesh network for freedom presents a problem

Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

At a time when privacy has become a heated issue of debate by Americans the knowledge of a mesh network developed by the U.S. has become known as a program to foil government spies, reported the New York Times on Sunday.

It is an awkward and inconvenient time for the mesh network technology developed by the State Department to produce powerful digital tools to prevent suppression of speech around the world to beome public. A time of outrage and uproar from the leaked NSA documents has left the U.S. in a quandary with the release of information about its ability to set up what is known as a mesh network and allow dissidents to communicate outside the Internet.

The U.S. government spent $2.8 million on this program three years ago, which allows anyone to place routers with special software fastened to an open area atop a roof or other clear area. Once an unobstructed view is obtained then the router can communicate on a network link of utilizing wireless signals. The router or node as it is also known can allow communication to hop from node to node. In the leaked NSA documents this mesh system is known as a global Internet spy without peer.

Mesh network has been used in Detroit where Internet has not been available. It has provided a source of communication otherwise not available but the cost of privacy is questioned by locals in Detroit. Diana J. Nucera, community technology director at an organization called Allied Media Projects, which has helped place the mesh networks in the Detroit neighborhoods questions its ethical relationship for the community. It is a double edged sword between freedom of speech and privacy.

Sascha Meinrath, founder of the Open Technology Institute at the New America Foundation, a nonpartisan research group in Washington has helped to develop and place this mesh system into operation. He received hundreds of questions from Americans since the NSA leaks about the privacy issue. He can only reply that nothing is foolproof against surveillance despite technology designed to resist invasion of communication.

The residents in Sayada, Tunisia during 2011 took part in an uprising against the government with the use of the mesh network for communication. They became a model for a physically independent local network capable of the spaced antennas from rooftop to rooftop to provide life important communication. Since the ouster of the president, they continue to build upon this mesh network system.

Apple has developed a mesh network system with its airdrop feature. You can use multipeer connectivity through this Apple designed feature so this technology is just beginning to offer options.

“Exactly at the time that the NSA was developing the technology that Snowden has disclosed, the State Department was funding some of the most powerful digital tools to protect freedom of expression around the world,” said Ben Scott, a former State Department official now at a Berlin policy nonprofit, New Responsibilities Foundation. Now while working at the Berlin nonprofit Foundation he considers this “one of the great unreported ironies of the First Obama administration.”

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