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A good outcome, thanks to DHS: More libraries will host TOR nodes

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Interesting outcome of the DHS hysteria that criminals might use TOR nodes in libraries—indeed, criminals might even use the libraries themselves—checking out books, reading magazines, and so on. And probably criminals use supermarkets. There’s no end of things that could be shut down because criminals might use them…

But back to the TOR nodes: One happy outcome of the heavy-handed actions by DHS is that it publicized how libraries can assist by hosting TOR nodes. Jason Koebler writes at Motherboard:

As so often happens, a government attempt to quash the use of technology it doesn’t like has made that tech more popular than ever. A week after the Department of Homeland Security intimidated a New Hampshire public library into shutting down its Tor relay, about a dozen other libraries nationwide have shown interest in running their own Tor services.

In July, the Kilton Public Library in New Hampshire agreed to become the first library to operate a Tor node, meaning its contributing bandwidth to the popular anonymous web browsing protocol. There is a well-known dearth of node operators, which are also known as relays. Because of the way Tor distributes traffic across many different servers, as more people operate these relays, the network becomes both faster and more secure.

The plan, launched by the Library Freedom Project, is to get public libraries across the country to agree to operate relays. Progress was slow as its founder, Alison Macrina, slowly reached out to individual libraries about the project.

And then the Department of Homeland Security got involved.

Last week, DHS warned Lebanon, New Hampshire police that Tor can be used by criminals—the standard federal line is that the service fosters a “zone of lawlessness” filled with terrorists and child pornographers. The Kilton Library shut down its relay in order to hold a public meeting about the future of the relay. Internet freedom activists started online petitions asking the library to restore the node, news stories about the shutdown shot to the top of Reddit, and, on social media, the news went about as viral as a fairly esoteric privacy story could.

Tuesday night, the Lebanon Library Board of Trustees unanimously decided to resume operating the node.

“Not a single person in the audience had a dissenting thing to say, it was amazing,” Macrina told me. “I’ve never seen a public referendum like that come down so strongly in favor of free speech. It was the world’s first ever Tor protest, and we were just blown away.”

The attention didn’t just spur the Kilton Public Library to take a stand, however. It’s also blown up the project as a whole, according to Nima Fatemi, who works with Macrina on the project.

“Librarians started emailing us saying ‘How can we join the movement? How can we run these relays?'” he told me. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 September 2015 at 12:34 pm

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