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“Facebook announcement made on Facebook.com, never mind launch a hidden service”
A couple of years ago I started a list of organisations I thought should run Tor relays or exit nodes.
I found it again this weekend.
Organisations who should run Tor nodes (exit or relay):
(ordered by likelihood of it happening)
- Amnesty International
- Privacy International
- Reuters (for their journalists and correspondents and for provision of news services)
- LibreOffice (they provide open source content creation tools)
- Internet hosting companies (Gandi.net, Greenhost)
- national government of Iceland, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Ireland (Ireland is now Europe’s user data protection base for Facebook, Twitter, and Google)
- Télécoms Sans Frontières (TSF)
- all hackerspaces who’s members are able to contribute to the running
- the United Nations (or some part of..)
- the European Parliament (or some part of..)
- MIT, Stanford (universities who have a history in the advancement of the Internet and technology)
- mobile phone network operators (Vodafone, 3, o2)
- Internet Service Providers (BeISP in UK, XS4ALL in Netherlands and others)
- British Broadcasting Corporation (for provision of news services in countries where access to news restricted)
Scores on the doors
I guessed one correctly. Not a good result.
Mozilla have announced they will run relay nodes as part of “Polaris”, their new privacy initiative.
This news is fantastic. It truly is. Such a large, and user-focused Internet entity putting it’s resources behind Tor middle relay nodes is great news. I would have expected Mozilla to fund and operate exit nodes as this is the main difficulty for small or single entities. Running exit nodes can attract the wrath of legal departments, law enforcement agencies and ISPs. Still, give them credit.
The dark horse
But I totally missed the other major name.
I did not expect Facebook to be (the first?) the major Internet service to be present on the Tor network ((Facebook announcement made on Facebook.com, never mind launch a hidden service ((BBC article covering Facebook Tor service)), with an associated SSL cert.
And then my friend Alec Muffet caused me a few weeks of head scratching and repeated “what nows?” when he tweeted:
— Alec Muffett (@AlecMuffett) October 31, 2014
It seemed to totally go against the “BUT FACEBOOK IS TRACKING ME AND WANTS TO KNOW MY EVRY THOUGHT” argument. And yes, that thought had crossed my mind.
It also confused a lot of people when they thought, “BUT I HAVE TO LOG INTO FACEBK SO I LOOSE MY ANONYMITY!”.
In the case of Facebook, unless you created an account which does not use your real name and does not have any photos of you uploaded, you weren’t anonymous.
What accessing Facebook as a hidden service inside the Tor network does do is hide your actual location. This may not be beneficial to some users, but will be very beneficial for others.
Why did Facebook do it?
I have some guesses and they can all be summed up by: to give access to their website to as many potential users as possible.
Go back to Nokia’s awesome 22 year old mission statement (first thought of by Ove Strandberg) “Connecting people”. The Nokia slogan “effectively portrays the company’s mission, which is to connect people without barrier and distance” ((famouslogos.net description of the Nokia slogan)).
Facebook want to make their service available to as many people as they can.
It would be good to know if they also run exit relays.
The other big name on the Internet that has been running Tor network middle relays is Wikimedia.
— Runa A. Sandvik (@runasand) November 10, 2014
It would be very interesting to see them launch a hidden service. I think this could have a similar affect, in terms of access to information, as Facebook could have for enabling people to connect.
As a result of their place in the publiction and handling of the Snowden files, I want to see the Guardian newspaper running a hidden service, or at least exit nodes.
Over the weekend I read an interesting article about the “right” relationship between technology companies and journalism ((Guardian article by Emily Bell)), written by Emily Bell. She made a good comment:
“….at news organisations the central organising principle is usually to produce something with social impact first ahead of utility or profit”.
I agree, which is why I think The Guardian should look at making their content available as a Tor Hidden Service. It would produce something with social impact and provide utility.
Who do you want to see creating a Tor Hidden Service, or running relay nodes?