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Freedom 2.0 for Linux: Masking User Identities

Turning into a Nym

January 11, 2001

There are few people in the world, I think, that would shy away from the chance of having a secret identity. Just think: to have the chance to move about doing things you might not normally do, all the while protected under the guise of a mild-mannered somebody-or-other.

In an age of ever increasing methods of finding out who you are and what you're doing has made it very difficult to maintain your own identity's privacy, let alone someone else's.

I tried out a new product this week, however, that does a pretty good job of keeping your identity safe and secure. No capes or masks required, either.

Freedom 2.0 from Zero Knowledge Systems, Inc. is a nifty little add-on for your browser and e-mail client that allows you to create pseudonym identities for yourself while you are out surfing on the Web. Under the guide of one of these identities, called nyms, you can surf to your heart's content knowing that what the Web sites full of cookies and trackers are seeing is the nym, not you.

Freedom 2.0 comes in two flavors: standard and enhanced. The standard version is free and gives you quite a few nice features, some for your browser and some for just general security.

The browser-specific features include a form filler, ad manager, and cookie manager. These are pretty self-explanatory in their proposed functions.

A more general security feature is the Keyword Alert, which warns you every time you are about to send a message out with your real name and address. And then there is the Personal Firewall, which gives a fair amount of security to your system, particularly if you have a dedicated connection like cable or DSL.

If you plunk down $49.95, you can get the enhanced version, which adds encrypted, untraceable e-mail and anonymous browsing, chat, and newsgroup access. This anonymity is the result of privately routing your Internet requests and commands through anywhere from one to three different servers, which can mask the origin point of your browser.

I was able to look at the enhanced version of Freedom 2.0, and I ran into some problems with the initial installation on my Linux box. For reasons that still boggle me, I had to switch to Red Hat 7 to look at another product right after the holidays. Freedom 2.0 for Linux is compatible with Red Hat 6.1 and 6.2 (as well as SuSE 7.0, Linux-Mandrake 7.1, and Caldera OpenLinux 2.4).

Note the lack of "and above" for the Red Hat requirement. That's because (I would discover later) that Freedom is not compliant with Red Hat 7.0 because of--you guessed it--the version of gcc that Red Hat so thoughtfully installed.

Instructions were available to compile the kernel on the Freedom Web site, so I could have gone that route, but I wanted to get back to SuSE anyway, so one half-day later, Freedom was nicely installed on my SuSE platform.

It should be noted here that to run Freedom, you have to be in GNOME as a non-root user.