This is What a Tor Supporter Looks Like: Alison Macrina
Ask Alison Macrina about the Tor Project and she immediately thinks of all of the librarians who have been transformed by learning how to use the Tor Browser in her trainings through the Library Freedom Project. "You teach people how to use the Tor Browser and they are so thrilled," she says. "They are most excited when you teach them about invisible trackers, and then about how Tor creates a different circuit on every tab, protecting you from trackers who would create a trail of what you look at. This one reason why Tor is so great—it is for everyone, not just techie people."
Macrina founded Library Freedom Project for just that reason. She travels to libraries all over the United States, Canada, and increasingly internationally, educating librarians about current privacy issues.
"Helping librarians understand privacy issues impacts not just libraries but the larger community," she says. "Libraries offer public Internet terminals, and librarians like me teach free computer classes to the public. Our patrons come from all walks of life, but we tend to serve communities particularly vulnerable to surveillance (including immigrants, Muslim Americans, people of color, people who are homeless, and those who have been incarcerated) in higher numbers than in the general population."
Education about privacy tools and protecting oneself online is particularly important for these communities, Macrina adds, because they are targeted more. "One thing about using Tor is that it really does protect and allow them to move in the online world unfettered from the pernicious effects of surveillance. It makes a big difference for people’s material realities. Most people realize that the Internet is a hostile place, and to know that there really is something you can do about it, and that you can always do more—they really respond to that."
Library Freedom Project has collaborated with the Tor Project for the last year, and, due to securing some additional grant funding, LFP and the Tor Project will be working together more closely to open up Tor relays in libraries. "We get to hire Nima Fatemi, a core Tor Project person in order to scale our relay project. We will also be able to hold more advanced trainings for librarians because of Nima's expertise, and we will reach many more libraries. We feel that there is a lot of possibility here."
Both Macrina and Fatemi place a strong emphasis on strengthening the communities they serve through the FLP trainings.
"One of the most helpful things we can do to participate in the movement to protect Internet freedom globally is to run a Tor relay. We have many interested libraries who want to participate, and now we have a better capacity to serve them," Macrina says. "With Nima working more closely with Library Freedom Project, we will be able to show them the rich complexity of what Tor can offer them and their communities, that there are many options for protecting their patrons' privacy, and that there is always more that you can do. Part of our strength is all of the people who are involved in this."