This is a private blog by Jens Lechtenbörger.

Jens Lechtenbörger

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You need Tor, and Tor is asking for your support

For decades, privacy and freedom of thought and expression have been valued as human rights. Please take a moment to read articles 12, 18, and 19 of ↑The Universal Declaration of Human Rights dating back to 1948.

In free, democratic countries we took those rights for granted. Even without knowing or caring about human rights, among family and friends we chatted without being overheard, we shopped anonymously and paid with cash, we walked the streets anonymously without being afraid of unknown strangers crossing our paths. In libraries we read books and newspapers while nobody spied on our interests.

That situation has changed dramatically in recent years with two noteworthy twists. First, in an article worth your time Eben Moglen explained in 2013 (predating the Snowden disclosures!) how we have ↑entangled ourselves in the Net. We surround ourselves with all kinds of “smart” devices such as phones, smart watches, smart meters, smart TVs, e-book readers, glasses, cars, all of which have eyes and ears of their own, monitor our location, our communication, our behavior most—if not all—of the time. Apps in those devices transmit what they observe into the Net, under incomprehensible privacy piracy policies. Once in the Net, that data is traded, stolen, re-purposed—beyond our control, consent, or knowledge.

Second, for reasons that I cannot comprehend, (even) democratic governments seem to assume that our human rights do not need to be respected on the Net. They demand openly and enforce covertly access to our communication, to our data, effectively—the more we entangle ourselves in the Net—to our lives.

If you believe that the human rights to privacy as well as freedom of thought and expression should also be your rights, even if you move on the Net, you must learn and practice digital self-defense. Essentially, you need to choose apps and tools that respect your freedom and privacy, which requires ↑free software based on strong cryptography. For example, to protect your e-mails you may want to use ↑GnuPG as explained in ↑this guide to e-mail self-defense. As messenger you may want to switch to ↑Signal. For Web surfing you may want to use the ↑Tor Browser.

Tor is cutting-edge anonymity research turned into easily usable free software. Briefly, Tor re-routes your network data through randomly selected relays on the Net, thus hiding who is communicating what with whom. More information on how Tor works can be found on the ↑Tor overview page and in the ↑Tor FAQ. Tor is built by a non-profit organization that is currently asking for ↑donations.

Make sure to read the ↑download warning and try the ↑Tor Browser today. It’s easy to install and run. Be warned, however, that surfing will be slower in general and that some misguided sites may refuse to load unless you solve a ↑captcha (which may or may not go away if you reload the page via “New Circuit for this site” from Tor Browser’s menu underneath the onion icon).

If you like Tor, the project is asking for your ↑donations, and you are in good company: ↑Edward Snowden and Laura Poitras use Tor. Security guru ↑Bruce Schneier recommends that you use Tor.

If you don’t like Tor, you can help to ↑improve it.

And, as a final remark, if you believe that Tor is being misused by “bad guys,” then, of course, you are right. Tor, just like about any other tool created by mankind, can be used by law-abiding citizens as well as by the scum of the earth.