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Facebook Introduces ‘Dark Web’ Access For Tor Browser

Who Turned Out The Rights?

Those unfamiliar with the constant war for net neutrality that rages on behind the net curtains of the internet may not be familiar with Tor, the open source service which pledges to “prevent somebody watching your internet connection.” Tor is non-profit, and its main product is the Tor Browser, which claims to be entirely anonymous in every way.
In an old interview with the BBC, company executive director Andrew Lewman revealed that the Tor Browser worked by pinging your request to visit a website’s servers across 6,000 hosts in 89 different countries. These relays happen in a different, random order every time, meaning that any prying eyes will see the data they collect as nothing more than a scrambled mess.

While it could be argued that the service falls primarily into the realm of the paranoid here in the UK (does the government really care whether I plan to buy a new pair of roller-skates tomorrow?), it is an incredibly important tool in places like Russia and especially China, where user privacy has reached levels so low that people have taken to the streets to campaign against it (among, of course, a whole other list of borderline atrocities).

Today, Facebook have officially pledged their support to Tor, and improved how their website runs when accessed through its browser. Although the site was already accessible through it, some data was still collected by the social network's algorithms. Now, Facebook will collect absolutely nothing. No data, no statistics, no history. This is valuable for those concerned with Facebook’s recent advertising developments, of course, but it should also prove to be a game-changer in heavily suppressed China. The new update also fixes a problem where those accessing the site through Tor were mistakenly flagged as having hacked accounts.

As well as planting their flag firmly on the side of 'The People' in the war for net neutrality, Facebook will receive a huge boost in their site's numbers with the move. In China, Iran, North Korea and Cuba, access to Facebook has been either partially or entirely blocked amid government paranoia that people are using the website to start a revolution. If these countries regain access to Facebook, it could receive millions of hits. 
In fact, Tor has struggled to be operable at all in China since its conception. According to the BBC, the browser has been involved in a constant “cat-and-mouse game with governments to keep the service accessible.” Official Facebook support should prove to be a huge boost to both the service and the people of China, who need all the help they can get to keep hold of their last remaining online rights.

Although you will obviously still need a username and password to sign into Facebook, Tor will ensure that it will track no more than that. Your location and posting habits will remain anonymous, which in countries trapped under the thumb of their government could prove to be enough to save the internet. Facebook is the first giant from Silicon Valley to pledge their support for Tor, and they should prompt many others to do the same; Google have always claimed to be all about the user privacy, so one would assume they won’t be too far behind.

Oh, and I don’t in fact plan to buy a new pair of roller-skates tomorrow. You can have that one for free, Mr. Cameron.


Emile is a postgrad from the University of Saint Mark and Saint John. He’s hoping to break into journalism or publishing, and won’t stop blogging until he’s managed it! Follow him @EmileAtSMF.

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Facebook Introduces ‘Dark Web’ Access For Tor Browser Reviewed by Emile Cole on Tuesday, November 04, 2014 Rating: 5
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