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Tor: An Anonymous, and Controversial, Way to Web-Surf

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Credit: Tor Project

The Tor Project, which was created 10 years ago to hide the online activity of dissidents in countries that censor the Internet, has recently seen its popularity grow in the United States and Europe because of concerns over Internet privacy. "Ten years ago, no one had this concept of privacy," says Tor executive director Andrew Lewman. "But with the [former General David] Petraeus scandal and cell phones recording your location, now this doesn't seem so far-fetched anymore."

Tor gets about 80 percent of its $2 million annual budget from branches of the U.S. government, but to grow further Tor needs more volunteers to sign up for its extended network. Tor currently has about 3,200 nodes, which can handle about two million daily users. However, Lewman says that to sustain millions more users and keep traffic from slowing down the system needs 10,000 nodes. Tor is currently developing hardware that volunteers could buy and plug into their home Internet connections to automatically become nodes.

Services such as Tor "provide lifesaving privacy and security for people who otherwise could face extreme reprisal from their governments," says Andre Mendes with the U.S.'s International Broadcasting Bureau, which has given $2.5 million to Tor since 2006.

From The Wall Street Journal
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