When the Internet was introduced to the public sphere in the mid 1990's (it had previously remained in the private sphere since the early 1960's) life as we knew it was set to change forever and looking back from 2015, it is safe to say that it has done just that. But, has it been for the better or for the far worse?
The two primary changes that the Internet (check distinction between The Internet & The World Wide Web) has brought about in my opinion are: the value of information and the devaluing of the privacy of the individual/Citizen. Today, in 2015, information has become the most sought after and fiercely protected global asset since gold and therefore the sanctity of privacy for the individual has become an antiquated notion. And it must be understood that the everyday Internet user just wants to check their email, their instant messages and social media profiles without having their spending/behavioural patterns and psychology analyzed and manipulated to suit the behest of the government. Herein lies the irony of our information age.
The government created the Internet with the purpose to keep information secure through technological and geographic decentralization whilst sharing and accessing information through out the globe but they knew they had to keep their own information and privacy secure. To achieve this they turned to the US Military Intelligence Division to create a secure network to protect government secrets and therefore national security and thus the TOR network was created. The title TOR (originally called The Onion Router Network) is named after the type of encryption it used to protect data – onion encryption. In laymen terms, onion encryption means that files can be relayed to a series of servers in a network but the sender and the receiver remains anonymous. As the file is relayed to each server a layer of encryption is unraveled but also conceals its origin and destination source. This process continues until the file reaches it destination where it remains completely unrecognizable and untraceable. This allowed anonymity online for government agencies to conduct business in private but, as seen with the internet evolving into the World Wide Web, nothing stays in the private sphere forever and neither did TOR. Certain individuals also wanted anonymity online and they wanted it for definitive reasons. Let us explore these reasons to shine a light on why people want anonymity online.
Traffic-Analysis, we have all heard of it and experienced it to varying degrees of encroachment but how does it work? Throughout the globe the internet is transferred via giant fibre-optic cables which has resulted in “information gateways” being strategically placed in key positions. These are key positions for Traffic-Analysis Bases. A Traffic-Analysis Base is situated close to these Gateways and the data is easily deflected to the bases without disturbing the initial information stream. And what do they do with this information and how does this analysis effect our day to day lives? Doesn't it just result in Targeted Marketing and more online advertisements than we know what to do with? The answer is milt-faceted, as all truthful answers concerning our contemporary predicament are.
Every time we go online we are bombarded by tempting suggestions for products that we have been thinking about and considering purchasing. We are tracked online and we are followed by these suggestions. This tracking of surfing/shopping/behavioural patterns is not just at home on our laptops etc. but also on our own voluntary tracking devices – Smart Phones. Everywhere you go and whatever you do, you are being tracked, analyzed and categorized as long as you have your phone and wifi switched on. What this means is that they know your every fluctuation of being and attitude. One can shop and surf without hindrance or consequence but if you have performed or neglected to perform certain prescribed civic duties i.e. not voting, not paying taxes or even more severe, have show yourself to be a political dissenter, then citizens can and have had their liberties taken away from them. These 'punitive damages' range from people's internet access being taken away, to the denial of health care and health insurance (being that they knew you worked online from home or you have had pressing health issues). It is a form of societal-mind-control and it hides in plain sight and the silent majority have no idea.
Certain questions should arise at this point? How do we take our privacy online back and who has the resources and who knows how to do it? And this is where Anonymous enter the picture. Anonymous began as a group of online pranksters and they, like other pranksters, began to take their humour online and they all found their nexus point at the website 4chan (particularly the message board 'b'). As Anonymous numbers exponentially grew they began to see the potential and power of being anonymous, in public and online. With this epiphany and ethos in mind, Anonymity turned to TOR, not only to perform pranks and be public nuisances but also to come to the aid of public dissenters i.e the recent political revolution and resulting usurpation of the Egyptian President in which they smuggled dial-up internet access to dissenters. Through the beneficial actions (albeit anarchic) of Anonymous, people in the silent majority began to see the use of anonymity online.
Ordinary citizens, through the use of TOR, could surf and shop online without their moral and political inclinations being covertly used against them. From this an online culture of personal and political freedom was born within the 'Hidden Web' and like Anonymous, the good of the masses was shown but so was the dark side. Due to the 'Hidden' nature of TOR, deviant criminals were able to practice and transmit vile acts of child abuse and murder. I will not go into any detail of how these acts are shown on the Hidden Web as I do not know or want to know where they are but needless to say, my research has shown that they do exist but, I wish to make the point that not all criminal activity is immoral.
For example, Edward Snowden & Julian Assange have used TOR in conjunction with Wikileaks to reveal the secrecy and corruption of the American government. Anonymous have been able to rail against cults of mind-control and manipulation such as Scientology and actively seek out civil rights offenders and also the criminally ill such as non-convicted pedophiles. And the Silk Road (a website which allowed individuals to purchase and drug they wished in a safe and discreet matter) allowed people to take back sovereignty of their own minds and bodies without fear of public prosecution and life long shame.
What is the future of TOR and The Hidden Web? Will the government take back TOR and the Internet itself or will conscientious groups like Anonymous and citizens such as you and I, discover new ways to fight the powers that be whilst keeping our livelihood and loved ones safe? These answers I cannot answer but I can only assume that there will always be people who will not bow down, who will always fight for what is good and right and actively seek out and disseminate the truth of our technocratic world and its governance.
The Hidden Web
by Gene Von Banyard