A new bill going through Congress wants to stop “bad people from using Tor. It not only provides a safe haven for online activists and whistle-blowers for people in oppressed countries, but also for criminals, drug users, and pedophiles.
The people behind the Tor project aren’t known for taking too kindly to oppressive, intrusive, surveillance minded governments. To go even further beyond the paranoid thoughts that government funding already compromises Tor, we take into consideration the Snowden incident that revealed that Tor is in fact, one of the only tools that still has the NSA baffled in most situations.
With all that being said, it comes as no surprise that Congress may be secretly fighting against the state funding of Tor. The latest State Dept. appropriations bill is snaking its way silently through Congress references to stopping circumvention technologies from being used by bad people. How this is possible, I have no idea. I just came up with three flaws in my head, and can only imagine what readers are thinking themselves.
It’s been suggested that this broadly applies to encryption. The bill however, seems to be directed upon Tor itself. A senate report on the appropriations discussed funding related to internet freedom, which is what Tor was created, and still used for today. It seems now though, Congress wants to try to limit what the State Dept. can do with its funds, which includes finding ways to stop those with bad intentions from using Tor.
“…the committee requires that spend plans submitted by the Department of State and BBG pursuant to section 7078(c) of the act include a description of safeguards to ensure that circumvention technologies are not used for illicit purposes, such as coordinating terrorist activities or online sexual exploitation of children,” the report reads.
In the full version of the bill, the section notes that the funding may be used for internet freedom, only after measures are taken to stop “bad people” from using these tools.
“…made available for the research and development of new tools or techniques authorized in paragraph (A) only after BBG CEO, in consultation with the Secretary of State and other relevant United States Government departments and agencies, evaluates the risks and benefits of such new tools or techniques, and establishes safeguards to minimize the use of such new tools or techniques for illicit purposes,” the section reads.
Tor has been developed to provide the best privacy tools for people using the internet, and it appears this is a way of attacking Tor from Congress. One could argue this as being a way to cut funding from the State Dept. to Tor. If this isn’t changed, a lot of the funds Tor uses to develop beyond its previous self, won’t be available.