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Google allows users to spy on ISPs

New tools can test connection speeds and identify if service providers are restricting access

Google is flexing its net muscles with an ambitious new initiative that allows users to find out if their internet service providers (ISPs) have put access restrictions or other network controls in place.

Measurement tools for the internet are now available through Google’s Measurement Lab (M-Lab), that collaborates with the Open Technology Institute, the PlanetLab Consortium and other academic researchers.

“At Google, we care deeply about sustaining the Internet as an open platform for consumer choice and innovation,” stated a post on the official Google blog, adding that “transparency has always been crucial to the success of the Internet, and, by advancing network research in this area, M-Lab aims to help sustain a healthy, innovative Internet.”

M-Lab will dedicate 36 servers in 12 locations across the United States and Europe to researchers working on developing these internet tools, which will help ascertain whether ISPs are blocking or restricting specific applications, and identify the real speed of connections.

Marketed as a community-based initiative, all data collected through M-Lab will be made publicly available for other researchers to build on.

It will be interesting to find out how, and if, these tools will affect internet services in the UAE and Middle East. Once the tools become widely accepted, regional ISPs will need to ensure that services provided deliver on promises made.

At present there are three tools available to the public: the 'Network Diagnostic Tool' to test connection speeds, 'Glasnost' to identify whether BitTorrent is restricted or blocked, and 'Network Path and Application Diagnosis' that detects common problems on broadband networks. All these can be accessed through the M-Lab website.

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