Web censorship is a growing problem affecting users in an increasing number of countries. Collecting accurate data about what sites and services are censored will help educate users about its effects and shape future Internet policy discussions surrounding Internet regulation and control.
Add this line anywhere in the body of your page:
<iframe src="//encore.noise.gatech.edu/task.html" width="0" height="0" style="display: none"></iframe>
That's it! Your page's visitors will now collect measurements about how they experience Web censorship.
Read the full installation instructions for optional configuration steps that can help Encore better integrate with your site.
Encore currently instructs its clients to measure a list of sites compiled by Herdict, which Herdict and its partners feel are important to measure. Herdict already asks its users to measure these same sites manually using its Web site and browser extension; Encore simply automates these measurements.
Yes, you can direct your users to the Encore settings page.
Except in egregious cases (e.g., child pornography), we are unaware of any instances where a user would get into trouble simply for attempting to access blocked content, especially because users typically have no knowledge of which sites are blocked. Encore does not measure pornographic sites and further mitigates user risk because requests are initiated by the user's browser as cross-origin requests, not as explicit user "clicks", similar to how a browser loads other third-party content and tracking software.
For abundance of caution, Encore currently only conducts a conservative set of measurements meant to demonstrate its technical merit. We are investigating how to tailor the set of sites that Encore measures to both yield interesting results and minimize risk to users. This includes discussions with experts in Internet policy. Our Institutional Review Board (IRB) has declined to formally review Encore because it isn't considered human subjects research.
Please contact us with your questions and concerns about Encore's ethics. We are eager to hear your experiences and feedback.
Although we cannot provide legal advice, we believe that you are not required to inform your site's visitors about Encore or obtain their consent before collecting measurements. That said, Encore's installation instructions explain how your can inform your visitors of Encore's presence and allow them to disable Encore entirely.
Countless sites already load resources from numerous third parties and record detailed measurements about users' browsing behavior without informing them or obtaining their consent. (For example, this paper studies the pervasiveness of third-party Web tracking.) Rather than loading third party resources for commerical purposes (e.g., to track users or build consumer advertising profiles), Encore uses the same mechanisms "for good" to measure Internet censorship.
Ultimately, you and your institution should evaluate the legality and ethics of Encore for yourselves, particularly if you are outside the United States.
Please email us if you have questions or comments about Encore.