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[tor-talk] NYC Event 2/15: Discussion Questions

I thought it might be interesting for others to hear some of the
questions that arose in the discussion at the NYC Tor event on Feb 15
this past week.


This list isn't exhaustive, but it may connect with others on this list,
and could possibly provide more materials for the Tor Project FAQ
(https://www.torproject.org/docs/faq.html.en). I didn't attempt to
provide details on the answers and I did miss a part of the discussion,
although I provide some comments. Any inaccuracies/commentary are
attributable to me and me alone.

* Why is Tor {weak|underutilized} *there*?/What causes the waves and
troughs in Tor usage in a particular country?

This question arose in the context of certain countries which see
significant jumps then declines in usage. The well-known cases of usage
spikes is usually tied to political turbulence in a particular country,
in which internet censorship becomes a tactic of repression. But in
other cases, there might be the adoption of "real identity" tied to
online accounts, or blocking of specific messaging applications.

* Why do Akamai/CloudFlare and other man-in-the-middle type services
block Tor?

There have been changes in the CloudFlare configuration where the "block
Tor knob" is off by default. Blocking Tor isn't just based on the FUD of
"Tor users are all bad" but often it's recognized as a tool of
commercial competition.  For instance, firm's might be concerned about
comment spam or derisive comments from a competitor.

* Do *they* know if I download TAILS/Tor Browser?

*They* in this case could be any wide-seeing adversary, which could be
your ISP, corporate management or one three-letter government agency or

This is a common question in my experiences. But despite fumbling
through an array of answers, Roger offered an elegant answer with: Are
you more concerned about the adversary seeing you downloaded TAILS, or
them seeing the www sites you visit?

* .onion sites

There was some discussion about perceptions about and use of .onion
services, and why we say ".onion" as opposed to the hidden web/"Dark

While many (particularly in the media) refer to the frequency of the
"ugly" residing on .onion services, Facebook is actually the most
visited site.  Some month in the past, some 1 million users accessed the
.onion site, which represented 1/16 of that month's Facebook users. That
may point to the future trajectory of .onion sites. Just because in
absolute terms there's lots of loopy www sites there, they aren't
representative of the full-scope of .onion traffic in relative terms.

* Tor and The End of Net Neutrality: What Impact?

The bluntly honest answer was "who knows?" since each state seems to be
countering federal legislation. And as an overlay network, Tor users
might actually be a useful too to mitigate legislation.

* Running an Exit Node

Much of the discussion is directly addressed by Tor documentation, but I
can imagine that a meeting specifically on the topic may be relevant in
the future, at least in a place where there is a significant
concentration of non-exit relay operators wanting to take the plunge.


The discussion prompted a lot of other relevant questions and comments,
but that's a quick survey of some I thought that were interesting.



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