What is the Dark Web and The Onion Router (Tor). If you spend most of your screen time loitering on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest or LinkedIn then you’ve only ever scratched the surface of the web. There is an additional layer known as the Dark Web that allows people to circumvent surveillance and move around online without traceability. The original software, The Onion Router (Tor), was developed by US Naval Research Laboratory employees Paul Syverson, Michael Reed and David Goldschlag in the mid 1990s to protect the identity of US Navy intelligence agents. However, the network had to be accessible for the general public so that officers could operate in a diverse crowd. Computer scientists Roger Dingledine and Nick Mathewson further refined Tor with Syverson in 2003 and it was released under free licenze in 2004. At this time the US Navy cut ties with the Tor project, but the US Government continued to provide funding.
What is the Dark Web & Tor Used for?
The dark web’s anonymity enabled people to conduct prohibited activities, the most successful of those being Silk Road, a marketplace for the trade of illegal goods. Approximately one million people using Silk Road made Bitcoin transactions that are estimated at US $1 billion. It launched in 2011 and was shut down by the FBI in 2013. In February 2015, Ross William Ulbricht was convicted of seven charges for being the site’s founder. In May 2015 he was sentenced to life in prison. Despite this, many traders continue to operate similar businesses in the dark web. But it’s not all black market trading. Former US National Security Agency (NSA) employee, Edward Snowden, used it to leak information about the NSA’s PRISM surveillance program to the media in 2013. Facebook and ProPublica wanted in on the action, too, both having launched a dark web .onion site that gives users a chance to access the sites without surveillance concerns. It could be of value to people in countries including North Korea and China, where access is blocked.
Why is Online Privacy Important?
There are two general reasons why privacy is important. The first is that privacy helps individuals maintain their autonomy and individuality. People define themselves by exercising power over information about themselves and a free country does not ask people to answer for the choices they make about what information is shared and what is held close. At the same time, this does not mean that public policy should shield people from the costs of their choices. A second reason that privacy is important is because of its functional benefits. This area has been especially slippery for policy-makers because they have often used the term “privacy” to refer to one or more of privacy’s benefits.
You probably wouldn’t hand personal information to a complete stranger, but you run the risk of inadvertently doing so the more you rely on the internet. Our transactions and data usage are all traceable and hackable, too. Digital crime and fraud is rising as our online activity intensifies. People have a right to privacy to a certain extent, but governments also have a duty of care to protect the population against criminals and terrorists in a physical or online context and this could impact personal privacy.