An unwelcome pandemic, a welcome anti-racism movement, turbulent elections, vaccine trials, separated loved ones, work from home transitions, socially-distanced gatherings, awkward zoom calls.
It’s difficult to put the weight of 2020 into words. Like many of you, we’ve had to deal with moments of loss this year.
But there’s been a lot of joy, too. Thanks to the support of our incredible community and collaboration with incredible grassroots organizations, we were able to launch exciting initiatives that help further TunnelBear’s mission for an open and uncensored internet.
Here's an overview of this year's initiatives that we hope will better your online experience, we'll be back with more in 2021.
Internet freedom team
We started the year by putting together a development framework to tackle VPN blocking and censorship, which you can read about here. The framework consists of a four stage model that identifies how access to VPN is blocked in restrictive regimes, which allows our engineers and community professionals to hone in on specific ways we can be more circumvention-forward.
Tackling this type of development model requires a dedicated group. In the spring, we announced the launch of TunnelBear’s anti-censorship team, who work to make the internet as open and accessible as possible.
Our new anti-censorship team quickly realized that the folks who make the largest contributions to internet freedom - frontline activists, technologists living under restrictive regimes, journalists - are most often the ones who face operational and financial burdens when they try to access VPN. We also know that the fight for an open and uncensored internet is strongest when technologists, activists, and organizations combine their talents.
This led us to launch the NGO Support Network, a program that sees TunnelBear partnering with civil society allies to distribute free VPN accounts to activists in need.
Open source contribution
Our community mandate extends to our love of open source technologies, like OpenVPN.
This year, we set out to fix a privacy loophole within HTTPS, by encrypting the SNI field, which makes it harder for censors to block domain names. We contributed our Encrypted SNI code into open source, and you can read about that process here.
The combination of the above efforts made it easier to make TunnelBear available to folks living in restrictive environments. We collaborated for months with local testing communities and the wonderful team at ASL19 to launch TunnelBear’s Iran program, which offers our users in Iran 10GB/month of free VPN service.
New tunnels added
We’re also always looking to grow and make your TunnelBear experience as seamless as possible. We heard your feedback about the number of available tunnels to connect to, and have launched new tunnels to Argentina, Chile, Colombia, and Peru.
Where we go from here
This year has allowed us to work with even more individuals who are passionate about the potential of the internet to be an open and democratic space, and we know that there is more work to be done here.
There are modern policy challenges to tackle in the fight for strong encryption, new community partnerships to explore with technologists, new obfuscation technologies to research, the wishlist goes on.
We are happy to listen and learn from your feedback, if you’d like to leave us a note or recommendation, please drop us a line on firstname.lastname@example.org.
TunnelBear is a very simple virtual private network (VPN) that allows users to browse the web privately and securely. It secures browsing from hackers, ISPs, and anyone that is monitoring the network. TunnelBear believes you should have access to an open and uncensored internet, wherever you are.