Open-Source uProxy Extension Offers “Social” Private Browsing

If you’re looking for a new way to stay private online without using Tor or traditional proxies — or if you’d like to help other people do the same — an open-source browser extension called uProxy is right up your alley.

uProxy’s developers pitch it as a “social application,” designed to help people stay private online by building communities. It does that by allowing networks of friends to share Internet connections with one another, and keep track of who is signed in and using the service at a particular time.

In that respect, uProxy may not be a great tool if you don’t want your friends to know about your browsing activity. But, assuming you trust them, it is a good way to hide your activity behind a Web proxy.

The project’s developers say uProxy is especially useful for people who live in countries where Internet content is censored or restricted. Using the Web proxy that uProxy provides to share the connections of people in locations without restricted online service, users can access such content.

The tool is developed with support from Google Ideas. It currently supports Firefox and Chrome.

uProxy has some limitations.  For one, it only protects traffic in the browser in which it is running, rather than from all apps on your computer. That means it won’t hide, for example, torrent activity (unless you run torrents through your browser instead of using a standalone app), or conversations in chat apps. uProxy also can’t guarantee that certain Web-based content, like Flash apps, won’t send data without using the proxy, since these tools can be written in ways that allow them to skirt browser proxy settings.

And, again, friends who share connections with each other via uProxy can monitor one another’s Internet activity — although other data on their computers or local networks remains private and unavailable via the service.

So, if you need totally anonymous, end-to-end online privacy, Tor or a VPN are better solutions than uProxy. But the latter provides an easy-to-configure, social alternative that may appeal in many situations.

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