Golden Frog’s Policy Dictionary

The Golden Frog policy dictionary outlines common terms used to describe the issues we care about – terms we reference all the time, but recognize not everyone is so familiar with. Below you will find terms for: Encryption, Open Internet, Censorship, Surveillance, Privacy.


Encryption A way to protect digital data, information and communications. Encryption “scrambles” information, making it impossible for anyone who does not have the “key” to decrypt or understand. Technically, encryption refers to scrambling plaintext into ciphertext and back again. Source: Techtarget
Encryption Key A “very large number that an encryption algorithm uses to change the data back into a readable form.” Needed to decrypt, or read, encrypted data.

Source: Christian Science Monitor

Secret Key Encryption that uses a single key, which the sender and recipient of the communication share. The same key is used to both encrypt and decrypt the message. Also called symmetric encryption.
Public Key Encryption that uses a pair of keys, including a public key that is shared with others and a private key kept by the owner. Allows for a secure communication to take place over an insecure channel. Also called asymmetric cryptography.
VPN Virtual private network. A VPN encrypts an Internet connection, securing it to protect the privacy of information traveling over that connection.
End-to-End Encryption Encryption where only the sender and recipient have the keys. No one in between can see or access the message.
Encryption Backdoor A way for someone other than the sender or recipient to access an encrypted communication. In the context of recent governmental debates, an encryption backdoor is a way around security features built into technology, enabling whomever was authorized to decrypt and view the communication or information.
Decryption Using a “key” to unscramble the encrypted message, or to make it readable.
Information At Rest Information that is not travelling over an Internet connection. For example, a file stored on your computer or an email sitting in your inbox. Encrypting information “at rest” refers to encrypting items stored or saved to protect them.
Information In Transit Information traveling over an Internet connection. It relates to the transmission that occurs when a message is on its way between two end-points. Encrypting information “in transit” refers to encrypting your Internet connection to protect information while it is being sent or retrieved. This is done with a VPN.
Encrypted Messaging Refers to messaging applications that implement end-to-end encryption. WhatsApp, for example.
Unencrypted Refers to information or data not secured by encryption. Also known as “plaintext.”
Cryptography (Crypto) Code that enables information to be kept secret. Today, cryptography refers to practices Used to secure data and information, and encompasses the encryption and decryption of information.
DES Data Encryption Standard. A commonly used method of data encryption using a key. This key chooses one of the 72,000,000,000,000,000 (72 quadrillion) or more possible encryption keys at random for each given message.

Source: Norton

AES Advanced Encryption Standard.
RSA Algorithm used to encrypt and decrypt messages, used for public-key encryption.

Open Internet

Broadband A communications capability that enables high-speed data transmission that can be used for many purposes, including Internet access.
Broadband Internet Access Broadband has a variety of definitions, but as it relates to the Internet it refers to high-speed data transmission. Broadband describes the ability to receive data from Internet endpoints for communication purposes. Broadband Internet access is faster than dial-up.
Duopoly A situation in which two companies dominate the marketplace to the exclusion of competition or entry of new companies.
Duopoly in Broadband Marketplace The current situation in the United States, in which most markets are dominated by 1 or 2 broadband providers, leaving consumers with little (if any) choice over who provides their service.
FCC The Federal Communications Commission. A governmental agency in the United States that regulates interstate and international communications by radio, television, wire, satellite and cable.
FTC The Federal Trade Commission. A governmental agency in the United States that protects consumers and prevents anticompetitive, deceptive and unfair business practices.
ISP/Internet Service Provider A company that provides Internet access services to users.

For example: AT&T, Spectrum, Comcast, Verizon

Metadata Data that provides information about (describes) other data.

For example: Websites you visit and the duration of visit

Net Neutrality Short for network neutrality. First defined in 2002 by Colombia Law School professor Tim Wu as a non-discrimination principle for broadband providers wherein a carrier does not give preference to one application or type of traffic over another. This definition overlaps somewhat with Open Internet, however, net neutrality rules have been developed in an attempt to regulate major ISPs and trust them to play fair, rather than force them to provide open access. These attempts have been largely unsuccessful.
Open Access An Internet experience in which all Internet providers large and small have fair access to the infrastructure over which their services run. Open Access separates the physical network from the delivery of services, so the owner of the network is not the only one in position to supply the services. Open access allows for an open, competitive marketplace.
Open Internet An Internet experience with in which network providers cannot restrict content, limit user access to services (by blocking or throttling), or discriminate against non-harmful applications or user-supplied edge equipment (for example, a router). An open Internet allows for competition in the marketplace, and choice for consumers in selecting a service provider. A key component of Open Access.
Public Utility A business that performs a public service essential to daily life, usually in a market with no or little direct competition. The government typically regulates utilities, wherein the regulation is a substitute for competition in the marketplace. Communications public utilities are called “common carriers.” Public utilities/common carriers are required to offer and provide service to all eligible applicants on just, reasonable and nondiscriminatory terms, conditions and prices.

For example: Electric, local communications, water, natural gas


Block Block – Content: The process of stopping certain content from being delivered or accessible to an Internet user.Block – Internet: The process of restricting access to the Internet based upon IP address or other means. Usually occurs in targeted geographic regions, and is often implemented by governments.
Censorious Describing actions or societies that impart censorship.
Censorship The act of suppressing, prohibiting or restricting access to certain information or freedoms. As it relates to the Internet, the suppression of access to unrestricted information and the prohibition of free speech.
DNS Filtering/Redirection Also referred to as DNS blocking, a strategy used to prohibit or make it difficult for Internet users to access specific sites online. Often implemented in restrictive countries like China.
Domain Names Part of a network address, which identifies the domain and is used in a URL.
Filter (Internet Filter) The practice of identifying specific types of online content and communications, then selecting what is made visible to Internet users and what is censored and resultantly not displayed.
Freedom of Speech The ability to speak freely, or say whatever you want, without censorship or fear of retaliation or reprisal. Also applies to written communications in messaging applications and posted on the Internet.
Great Firewall Term for China’s system of strict Internet censorship mechanism, which involves the filtering of content, blocking of websites and disallowal of certain tools and programs. Also referred to as the “Golden Shield” and “Great Firewall of China.”
Human Rights One’s fundamental rights, which are universal. Human rights should be afforded to all individuals worldwide, but often are not. Human rights encompass privacy and access to the Internet.
Internet Dissident Refers to someone who expresses dissenting views, or views contrary to the government, on the Internet.
Internet Freedom The ability to access the Internet, and to access an uncensored Internet.
IP Blocking The blocking of specific Internet protocol addresses. This method is commonly used in geo-based censorship, in which a users’ access to specific sites is restricted or blocked based on IP address.
ISP-Level Block Content blocking enacted by an Internet service provider, meaning the provider is responsible for blocking their subscribers from accessing the site.
Self-Censorship When an individual chooses to suppress their opinion and refrains from speaking freely. Most often occurs out of fear of retaliation or consequences for sharing an opinion divergent to ideals prescribed by society or government.
Stringent Strict.
Unrestricted Without restriction. As it relates to the Internet: Allowing for access to the Internet without any censorship, filters or other barriers.


Big Brother Colloquial term used to describing a person or party watching (surveilling) someone. Often used in reference to a government.
Communications Data Actual contents of messages, including email text or messages. Can be highly personable and personally identifiable.
Court Order Official ruling from a court of law with which an individual or business is legally obliged to comply.
FISA Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. A United States law with provisions that enable the warrantless collection of information on individuals.
Intelligence Agency An agency collecting information, also referred to as intelligence, on individuals or organizations that are subject to investigation for.
Leak When information that is meant to remain private is exposed – intentionally or unintentionally – to the public.
Mass Surveillance Surveillance occuring on a wide, indiscriminate scale and applicable to a large group of people.
Metadata Data that provides information about (describes) other data.
Monitoring Ongoing surveillance of citizens, or the observation or tracking of one’s actions and activities online or in the physical world. Often used for the purpose of control.
NSA/National Security Agency The National Security Agency. Governmental agency in the United States which has repeatedly been associated with conducting surveillance activities in the name of law enforcement or safety.
Personally Identifiable Information (PII) Information collected that may reveal one’s identity, or include details that can be tied back to a specific individual.
Spying Another term for conducting surveillance. Monitoring a citizens’ behavior or activity without their consent.
Stingray A device that imitates a cell phone tower and sends out a signal to trick phones in the area to transmitting their location and other information that can be used to identify a phone’s owner. Also referred to as a “cell site simulator.”
Surveillance State Refers to a country or society in which surveillance is continually conducted by the government and is a persistent part of daily life for residents.
Warrant A legal document granting permission for a law enforcement body to conduct a search, make an arrest or complete another action as it relates to an investigation.
Warrantless Referring to a search or action taken without obtaining legal permission (a warrant).
Whistleblower Someone who releases classified information, alerting the greater public to an issue that was previously hidden by the government or other party.
Spying Another term for conducting surveillance. Monitoring a citizens’ behavior or activity without their consent.
FISA Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. A United States law with provisions that enable the warrantless collection of information on individuals.


Adware Software, free or for purchase, that blocks advertisements and means of tracking associated with them. This prevents both data collection and ads showing to users. Can include products commonly referred to as “adblockers.”
Communications Data The ability to access the Internet, and to access an uncensored Internet.
Cookies Token or short packet of data passed between communicating programs, that can be used to identify a specific computer, event or transaction. Commonly used in web browsers, and nearly ubiquitous online.
Data Collection  The act of collecting and storing information about an Internet user. Can be conducted by a website, service provider or broadband provider.
Data Localization  Requirements that data must be stored in-country on servers, rather than globally or on servers abroad.
Data Retention  The act of storing customer data, or information about a customer’s actions and communications, for a prescribed period of time.
Hacker or Snoop One attempting to gain access to another’s personal communications or information, without permission to do so. One who unlawfully surveils or obtains personal information about another online.
ISP Internet service provider. Can also be referred to as a broadband provider.
Malware Short for Malicious Software. Dangerous software that can “infect” a computer.
Personally Identifiable Information (PII) Information collected that may reveal one’s identity, or include details that can be tied back to a specific individual.
Phishing A form of cybercrime. Method that involves contacting the target by email, telephone or text message to lure them into providing sensitive information.
Privacy (as it relates to the Internet) Refers to the protection (or lack thereof) of personal data and information transmitted over the Internet.
Security Describes standards for protecting data transmitted over the Internet. Encompasses the security of your network, connection, applications, software and other related online activities. Security differs from privacy.
Unsecured Wi-Fi Wireless network connections that are not secured by encryption. Generally applicable to public networks, and networks accessible without a password. Unsecured Wi-Fi makes it easy for hackers and snoops to view or obtain personal details.