IETF Group Proposes Making Tor Anonymity an Internet Standard

by Ostatic Staff - Nov. 29, 2013

There continue to be many people around the globe who want to be able to use the web and messaging systems anonymously, despite the fact that some people want to end Internet anonymity altogether. Typically, the anonymous crowd turns to common tools that can keep their tracks private, and one of the most common tools of all is Tor, an open source tool used all around the world.

As a matter of fact, some data from earlier this year shows that usage of Tor has doubled in the wake of privacy invasion scandals involving the NSA and others.  Now, a group of engineers on the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF)--people with a fair amount of clout--have asked the architects of Tor to evaluate turning it into an Internet standard. If that happens, anonymity features could be ever present in applications of all kinds as well as the guts of the Internet.

Currently, you have to choose to use Tor if you want to keep your Internet tracks shielded from prying eyes. It is very easy to choose to use it, though. In fact, the Electronic Frontier Foundation recommends that users of the Firefox and Chrome browsers use an extension called HTPPS Everywhere to enable Tor with ease. 

But the IETF group calling for Tor to become a default standard within the guts of the Internet has a grander vision of Tor's future. As David Talbot writes in MIT Technology Review:

 "If the discussions bear fruit, it could lead to the second major initiative of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) in response to the mass surveillance by the National Security Administration. Already the IETF is working to encrypt more of the data that flows between your computer and the websites you visit (see 'Engineers Plan a Fully Encrypted Internet”)."

"Andrew Lewman, executive director of Tor, says the group is considering it. “We’re basically at the stage of ‘Do we even want to go on a date together?’ It’s not clear we are going to do it, but it’s worth exploring to see what is involved. It adds legitimacy, it adds validation of all the research we’ve done,' he says. On the other hand, he adds: 'The risks and concerns are that it would tie down developers in rehashing everything we’ve done, explaining why we made decisions we made. It also opens it up to being weakened,' he says, because third-party companies implementing Tor could add their own changes."

Reportedly, Tor is a very elegantly architected tool, and some people think it could serve as an exemplary Internet protocol. It would certaintly change the dynamics of the Internet--affecting everyone from advertisers to malware purveyors--if Tor became baked into the Internet itself. Just look at what advertisers had to say to Mozilla when it proposed escalating the privacy protection in the Firefox browser. You can bet that advertisers are going to sound off on Tor proposal, and soon.