1. 14
  1.  

  2. 16

    Somehow I don’t think the Tor project including the phrase “human rights” in its mission statement is going to make a government more likely (than they already were) to murder someone for using it. I think the Chinese government is going to care more that Tor actively develops technologies to bypass their censorship than what the project says their goals are.

    Although that’s a rather ironic headline given the author used their privileged position as a major Tor2Web node operator to harvest logs on users and tried to sell them to the Singaporean government. I’d posit that them losing all their credibility in the Tor community has more to do with them leaving than some words on a webpage.

    1. 4

      Thanks for context. Though now the whole situation just seems more confusing than ever… I wish we could get an opinion from someone else who works within Tor, because I’m not sure whose opinion to believe.

      1. 1

        I think it’s worth reading the rest of the thread if context is needed. The picture painted by Isis is contested, and may (or may not) be fully accurate.

        Here’s the guy’s retort: https://lists.torproject.org/pipermail/tor-project/2016-May/000361.html

        The rest of the thread is extremely adversarial. From what I’ve read, it looks like Virgil doesn’t understand the implications of his actions, while Isis makes the assumption that he’s deliberately malicious. At no point does anyone offer evidence or links to evidence to back up the assertion that Virgil tried to sell the logs to the singaporean government or interpol, although he admits trying to commercialize minimized logs in general, as an alternative to running ads. It’s not clear what’s in the content as the sample he posted was removed.

        1. 1

          While I agree the article is a right melodrama, I think the author does have a point. Will this change in policy get someone killed? I doubt it. The author could well be a total hypocrite too, but his point still stands.

          I’d prefer to view Tor as a privacy/anti-censorship tool, and let users make of it what they will. Tor should provide privacy with no strings attached. When you start thinking of it as a human rights tool, it limits the scope of which activities the Tor Project should support on their network.

          1. 2

            Tor should provide privacy with no strings attached. When you start thinking of it as a human rights tool, it limits the scope of which activities the Tor Project should support on their network.

            The new mission statement says their goal is “To advance human rights and freedoms […]”. I’m not sure what Tor could be used for that doesn’t fit under that.

            ed: it’s probably worth mentioning that this is the goal of the Tor Project, ie. the non-profit foundation. They develop tor but they do other things as well, such as campaign for internet rights (eg. they’re a member of the IDL). The tor program is anything you want it to be.

            1. 2

              What if you’re using Tor to make someone else less free? For example, an anti-marijuana campaign? Can you still expect the Tor Project to help you?

              People have conflicting opinions on what freedom is, while privacy and anonymity are much more clear-cut. All people (imo) should have access to private communication, regardless of what they plan to do with it.

              1. 3

                What sort of help from the Tor Project would someone doing that be looking for? The TP (help) develop tor and you’re free to use that for any purpose, including making others less free, but the TP probably isn’t going to advertise that people are (eg. they don’t mention child abusers or people traffickers on their list of people who use tor) or give grant money to someone doing that.

                1. 2

                  What sort of help from the Tor Project would someone doing that be looking for?

                  Help on mailing lists and irc, for example.

                  The Tor Project has made a statement about the people it wants to support, whereas in my mind it should provide a service to everyone who wants it. This mission statement contradicts that aim.

                  1. 3

                    Help on mailing lists and irc, for example.

                    The Tor Project doesn’t help people on mailing lists and IRC, anyone who wants to does. Some of the people who help also work or volunteer for the Tor Project in some capacity, many do not.

                    The Tor Project has made a statement about the people it wants to support, whereas in my mind it should provide a service to everyone who wants it. This mission statement contradicts that aim.

                    The mission statement includes the words “creating and deploying free and open anonymity and privacy technologies, supporting their unrestricted availability and use”. If anything the mission statement reaffirms the aim of making tor available to everyone who wants it.

            2. 1

              Tor should provide privacy with no strings attached.

              There’s a concept many have tried to express using the terms “libre”, “open source”, “free as in speech”, and (god help us all) “FLOSS”. I’ve long thought that the phrase “no strings attached” gets at this concept much more effectively and, as terminology often does, might change how people think about the concept it represents if it were used more often. I have a feeling such people would get a better idea of how harmful things like the GPLv3 and (potentially) Tor’s adoption of a strong mission statement are if they united under that terminology.

              1. 1

                I’d rather not offer my software with no strings attached. That’s public domain, and I think a copyleft license such as GPL helps to better promote innovation and user freedom.

                harmful things like the GPLv3

                the v3 in particular? or GPL in general?

          2. [Comment removed by author]

            1. 3

              Well, let’s see. I could visit China and they may ask me why I’m running tor. I say of course I’m using it because I don’t want the NSA spying on me. Maybe they believe me, maybe not, but it’s something they can say they believed while telling me to get the hell out.

              But now the tor project is more prominently announcing that it is for human rights. The “bad” people. And if I’m using it, I must be one of them.

              If there’s one thing these regimes hate, it’s meddling. Going about with an officially designated meddling tool will cause trouble.

              1. 2

                But now the tor project is more prominently announcing that it is for human rights

                Are they? This page that specifically mentions human rights activists use it, and gives a specific example of using Tor to circumvent the Great Firewall to research Tibetan culture, has been there since at least 2008. But maybe the Chinese government only read Tor’s press releases or something.

                You were never going to have much plausible deniability using Tor in China when its transports like obfs4 and meek, and the bridge system in general, are specifically designed with circumventing the Great Firewall in mind.