Kink in exile

Notes from a kinky nomad

How I use Tor, when, and why.

Please note this is not a technical article, I do not have a tech background and security experts should be consulted if you have pressing security concerns. However, I’ve written layman’s perspective security posts in the past and this post comes out of several conversations I’ve had with folks who care deeply about Internet privacy.

Tor is free software and an open network that helps you defend against a form of network surveillance that threatens personal freedom and privacy.  This has a lot of uses in a wider ecosystem of internet security, not least of which being to help people from countries that censor the internet to gain free flowing access to information.

So since I’ve been having a surprising number of conversations about Tor for a non-techie, here are some things to fill in the picture:

I run a Tor relay node. When I am asleep or at work or otherwise not using my allotted bandwidth, I run a Tor relay node which helps people in countries with heavier internet censorship than mine access the internet anonymously. I do this because access to information is important to me, because it lets me more fully utilize a resource I already have with minimal effort, and because I’ve lived in one of those more censored counties and I remember proxy servers being super useful for all my cat video surfing.

I do not run an exit node because I do not want to expose myself to the legal liability and I was advised not to by someone who does.

I use Tor to search for things that I might not want to share with the world or see advertisements for later, while I’m at work. I like the added layer of privacy and I like being able to actively curate my digital persona, so, when I am looking for things I don’t want to have as part of that digital persona, I use Tor.   One place you might want to use Tor is when you leave anonymous comments on my, or other people’s, blogs…because even if you don’t sign in with a name WordPress will kindly give me your IP address.

I do not use Tor to log into any service unless I have used Tor to set up the account and each and every time I have logged in since. Facebook knows who I am, where I live, what kind of phone I own, and who my friends are; telling Facebook that I am suddenly in Algeria does not help protect my privacy.

There are arguments for using Tor each and every time you go online, the most compelling of these for me is that anonymity is very important as an option any citizen can choose at any time, saving Tor for special occasions makes it feel like the “overthrow your government” browser when really it’s just as much the “I don’t want to see ads for sexy ladies in my neighborhood” and “get the snooping grandmas of the internet out of my life” browser and so using Tor for all web traffic normalizes it.

Overall, I agree with this argument, but if internet privacy is new to you, I would strongly suggest you spend some time really thinking about the full ecosystem of your anonymity. Again, if you set up a gmail account, say firstname.lastname@gmail.com from your home computer not using Tor, then added your family to a G+ circle conveniently called “family” logging into this account later through Tor is not anonymous. Your location in that moment in time is protected, but who you are is not.

Here are some more resources on internet privacy:

A step by step guide to using Tor for all your web traffic.

A Wired thought experiment in which one of their journalists tries to disappear. Spoiler alert: he is eventually found because he posted on a social networking site suggesting he was going to eat Pizza. Because the writer was on a gluten-free diet his pizza options were constrained enough that someone isolated his possible location and found him.

EFF surveillance Self Defense guide

Written by kinkinexile

April 22, 2013 at 6:24 pm

Posted in advice, privacy

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