Attacking and Defending the Tor Network

BOSTON–The Tor Project has become a vital mechanism for privacy advocates, human rights activists, journalists and others in sensitive positions to evade online censorship and persecution. And while the governments interested in limiting user access to the Internet and controlling content have had some recent success in preventing the use of the anonymity network, Tor members have been working on new methods for circumventing those restrictions.

The current controversy regarding WikiLeaks and the attacks against the organizations that have opposed the group has sparked a large and complex conversation about the meanings of free speech, freedom of the press and online activism. As new as all of this may seem to some, this is by no means the first time these issues have been brought to the fore. The term “hacktivism”, which is being thrown around quite a bit in the current discussion, was first coined nearly 15 years ago by a member of the venerable Cult of the Dead Cow hacking think tank. Oxblood Ruffin, one of the cDc’s members, presented the following paper on the origins of hacktivism and what it is and is not at Yale Law School in 2004. It holds a lot of lessons that apply in the current climate of hyperbole and rhetoric.

The Federal Trade Commission introduced a framework today that aims to address privacy issues raised by consumers that directly affects how our activity is tracked online. The agency went on to advocate the creation of a “Do Not Track” mechanism that could help shape the future of browser security.

Internet Eyes is a U.K. startup designed to crowdsource digital surveillance. People pay a small fee to become a “Viewer.” Once they do, they can log onto the site and view live anonymous feeds from surveillance cameras at retail stores.  If they notice someone shoplifting, they can alert the store owner. Viewers get rated on their ability to differentiate real shoplifting from false alarms, can win 1000 pounds if they detect the most shoplifting in some time interval, and otherwise get paid a wage that most likely won’t cover their initial fee.

A report of a massive ‘privacy breach’ at Facebook reveals, instead, the rickety underpinnings of the modern Internet straining at the demands of new applications. 

When the Wall Street Journal broke a story on Monday about a “Privacy Breach” at Facebook, all the elements were in place for a tech-driven earthquake: the world’s largest social network, the privacy of what the Journal described as ‘tens of millions’ of users of Facebook applications (or ‘apps’) including mega hits like Zynga’s Farmville.

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