Recently, Germany’s Bundesrat legislative body passed a bill on to the Parliament for action designed to make it easier for authorities to prosecute individuals and groups operating on the dark web for illegal purposes. On the surface that sounds like a great idea. Who doesn’t want the people who hack systems and steal personal data held accountable for their crimes?
As with most legislation, there is the opportunity for “unintended consequences.” These result from the application of a law in ways that impact regular people who have no criminal intent. According to an article on PCMag.com, part of the language in this new bill directly references the Tor network as an enabler of criminal activity on the dark web. This language is terrible news for people who rely on this service for anonymity.
The Onion Router (Tor) is free and open source software that runs on a volunteer network of more than 7,000 nodes. The software and network function to separate browsing and communication activity from the individual. Such separation makes it especially valuable to journalists, activists, whistleblowers, and those of us who prefer that no one knows what we do online. As the bill is written, such uses could be prosecuted as crimes.
German civil liberty groups and news outlets are expressing concern that the law as it is written could be used to punish people with different viewpoints and positions from those of the government. Or punish people who provide a Tor node. The effect on free speech could potentially be huge.
The law provides for a three-year jail sentence for people convicted under it. Combine jail time with the costs of fighting the case, and you have a recipe for people steering well clear of Tor. The law might be applied to any means used by individuals and groups to remain anonymous such as end-to-end encryption of communications. Think that is a stretch? The United States FBI called unbreakable encryption a public safety issue in 2018.
Passage of this type of legislation fuels an already high level of paranoia among people who are curious or value privacy and are not bent of committing a crime. Rumor runs rampant in the United States that the very act of using the Tor browser puts you in the crosshairs of national security agencies. That is likely a stretch because, as several put it, US citizens are already under such scrutiny. That too is unlikely but makes for entertaining conspiracy discussions. The national security agencies have more to do than snoop on average citizens.
CRIP.TO is built upon the premise that free; democratic societies are reliant upon the ability to speak freely without free of retribution. End-to-end encryption of all communications ensures this level of privacy. Anonymity indeed goes a long way towards removing fear from expressing ideas, searching for information, and so forth.
If you want the best total encryption solution for personal, corporate, group, industrial, or other critical communications applications, CRIP.TO’s unique hardware and software solutions are a great place to look. Together we can make data, and communication, safe.
Read more about the bill itself here.