The New Way to Use Facebook Without the Government Knowing

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Eric Markowitz

Facebook is now available for privacy-centric users on the Tor network

Facebook has collected billions of bits of information on the private lives of the hordes of people who spend hours every day on the social network. Now the company is chasing users who have fled to the refuge of a site that is all about anonymity and privacy.

The New Way to Use Facebook Without the Government Knowing

Facebook announced in an unusual blog post this morning that the site is now accessible on Tor, the encrypted network that masks your identity online. The goal, according to Alec Muffett, Facebook’s software engineer for security infrastructure at Facebook London, is to “give people more confidence that they are connected securely to Facebook.”

The move is odd because even if you access Facebook via Tor, you’re obviously not being anonymous. Facebook can still record when you log in and all of your activity on the platform. But, theoretically, your Internet service provider (or government, for that matter) won’t know you’ve been browsing the site if you do it through Tor.

The decision to create a Tor-based Facebook is likely targeted at two sets of people. The first: privacy-minded individuals who prefer to do everything anonymously. The second: overseas users, particularly those in countries like China with governments that censor the Internet and block Facebook.

Technically, Tor users can currently access Facebook just by entering “Facebook.com” into the Tor browser. But the connection is often shaky. This new link—Facebook.onion—will make that connection more reliable. And it will circumvent an ISP or government that might be monitoring your web habits.

Ultimately, this move comes down to one thing: Facebook is showing the world it cares about privacy.

Political uprisings like the Arab Spring famously took place on Facebook. But the backlash to those events was more government surveillance—or at least the fear of more government surveillance. People still want to use Facebook for a variety of political and nonpoltical reasons. Now they can do so (more easily) using this new Tor link.

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