When it comes to using anonymous browsers on the Web, you don’t always get treated to the same experience as the less-private users.
According to a research paper from the University of Cambridge, over 1 million IP addresses are deliberately degrading the service they provide to users via the Tor browser or completely blocking them in some cases. Those IP addresses include ones used by the likes of Yahoo and Google.
Tor has got a bad rep when it comes to the likes of Silk Road and hackers, but in reality, the browser is for anyone who just wants to use the Web and know that they aren’t being tracked. It can be used for a number of legitimate reasons that do not involve illegal activity.
The report states that nearly 4 percent of the top 1,000 Alexa-ranked websites have knowingly discriminated against Tor users. That means everything from blocking pages or utilities, as well as adding extra layers of authentication like a requirement to fill in CAPTCHAs.
While some will argue this is purely down to an attempt to limit attacks, it seems unfair to block all Tor users. In doing so, these websites are essentially calling law-abiding citizens a potential threat, which isn’t the case, and undermine the service as a whole.
Earlier this year, Tor started a crowdfunding campaign for its work, in order to lessen its ties to US government donations. It used the example of how Edward Snowden chose Tor as his browser of choice when communicating with filmmaker Laure Poitras about his NSA leaks.
Poitras explained that Tor is “an essential tool that is needed by people to do what they do. It fosters free speech and independent voices.”
Should Tor and its users be increasingly targeted and pegged as second-class on the Web, it can only be detrimental to the structure of internet freedom we constantly fight to uphold.