This is What a Tor Supporter Looks Like: Edward Snowden
In mid-October, the Tor Project had an opportunity to interview Edward Snowden. Below are key excerpts from the conversation.
Tor: What would you say to a non-technical person about why they should support and care about Tor?
ES: Tor is a critical technology, not just in terms of privacy protection, but in defense of our publication right -- our ability to route around censorship and ensure that when people speak their voices can be heard. The design of the Tor system is structured in such a way that even if the US Government wanted to subvert it, it couldn't because it's a decentralized authority. It's a volunteer based network. Nobody's getting paid to run Tor relays -- they're volunteers worldwide. And because of this, it provides a built-in structural defense against abuses and most types of adversaries. Tor provides a level of safety, a level of guarantee, to the confidentiality, and in some cases anonymity of human communications. I think this is an incredible thing because it makes us more human. We are at the greatest peace with ourselves when nobody's watching.
Tor: Can you talk about how the world would be different if Tor did not exist?
ES: Without Tor, the streets of the Internet become like the streets of a very heavily surveilled city. There are surveillance cameras everywhere, and if the adversary simply takes enough time, they can follow the tapes back and see everything you've done. With Tor, we have private spaces and private lives, where we can choose who we want to associate with and how, without the fear of what that is going to look like if it is abused. What the Tor network allows is what's called a mixed routing experience where, due to a voluntary cooperation of peers around the Internet -- around the world, across borders, across jurisdictions -- you get individuals who are able to share traffic in ways that don't require them to be able to read the content of it. So you don't have to trust every participant of the Tor network to know who you are and what you're looking for.
Tor: Did you know that Tor is run by a non-profit organization?
ES: Yes, Tor has been extremely open. Almost everybody who is involved in development has an online presence; they're involved in online engagement. You can drop into the IRC and talk to these people directly and ask them questions, or criticize them (laughs). It's a very open and inclusive community, and I think that's incredibly valuable. They also have a very rich and well-supported mailing list, which is very helpful for people who want to move beyond being a passive user of Tor and actually start being an active participant in expanding the network, in running a relay node from your home, or even starting to experiment with running an exit, which I think is one of the most interesting parts of the Tor experience.
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