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Re: Hacker strikes through student's router

Actually, I think the analogy to the anonymity afforded by open WiFi hotspots is a good one insofar as potential for abuse is concerned, as both have the potential to be abused in similar ways. Where they differ significantly is the public benefit they provide. Tor offers anonymity, while WiFi hotspots offer not only anonymity, but also Internet access itself. Another difference that may be ethically significant is that while Tor is operated as a free, non-profit public service, many WiFi hotspots, though free, are provided by commercial establishments motivated by profit as they seek to entice customers.

I think the analogy between Tor and WiFi hotspots is useful in that any argument that a person should not be allowed to run a Tor server because of the potential for abuse might also be made with similar force against a person or group of persons hosting an open WiFi hotspot.

George Maschke


Anthony DiPierro wrote:

On 11/9/05, *George W. Maschke* <maschke@xxxxxxxxx <mailto:maschke@xxxxxxxxx>> wrote:

    How is the anonymity provided by Tor any more subject to abuse than,
    say, the anonymity afforded by companies and institutions that offer
    WiFi hotspots? Or Internet cafes? Or public libraries?

Well, Tor is more accessible to more people. Tor lets you use your own software, not whatever happens to be loaded on the public computer (answer to 2 and 3 anyway). And the difficulty of tracking people using Tor is much higher than tracking people using these other providers, because at least the other providers give you a location. Along those same lines, the examples you give are more limited. You could easily set up a bot to use all Tor nodes at once. It'd be a lot harder to do that with all wifi hotspots, or internet cafes, or public libraries.

On top of all that, there are probably protections put in place at most of these places. Firewalls and proxies, with every access being logged in case there's a problem. And finally, to the degree that these methods don't provide this type of accountability, they probably do find themselves being threatened with lawsuits.

I agree with cyphrpunk for the most part. In the end Tor is going to be widely accepted to the extent that the good outweighs the harm. To say it's just like cyber cafes, or wifi hotspots, or public libraries, or selling hammers - none of these are very good analogies. Of course hooking up a gun to the internet isn't any better, but somewhere between the two lies my view of the situation. (Actually, both the hammer and the gun analogy miss the point that Tor just allows you to do something most users can already do, more anonymously.)