Undersecretary of State Goldstein Recommends VPNs to Iranians Amidst FBI Criminalization of Anonymity Tools.

As bloody protests continue in the Islamic Republic of Iran, Iranian officials have blocked internet access to Facebook, Instagram, and other social media websites. Amid the protests, the US Undersecretary of State Steven Goldstein has voiced concern over the behavior of Iranian officials and encouraged Iran to stop limiting external access to the countries users.

“They are legitimate avenues for communication,” Goldstein said. “People in Iran should be able to access those sites.” Iranians seeking to evade the blocks can use virtual private networks, Goldstein said. Known as VPNs, the services create encrypted data “tunnels” between computers and are used in many countries to access overseas websites blocked by the local government.

This comes as a surprise to many anti-surveillance advocates, as the Federal Bureau of Investigation had successfully lobbied for warrantless government hacking of computer systems anonymized with VPNs under the controversial "Rule 41" expansions in December. Under section (B)(6)(a) of the new rules(PDF), Federal investigators may seek out information on anonymized systems regardless of the physical location and district in which the system resides.

Though the change was made in December of 2016, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and other privacy advocacy groups have called on Congress to review the rule change and place a legislative hold until the privacy and security concerns of the change can be assessed.

For additional information about the rule change, check out the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Commentary here.