German police seize Tor anonymity servers

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Monday, September 11, 2006

Seven ISPs and individuals were raided and six confirmed computers seized by German police -- but not purely for operating as anonymity proxy servers using the Tor network protocol.

The premise of the seizures was that the servers showed up in a server log of a child pornography site. According to German civil liberties advocates in Germany who talked to the police, there are dozens if not hundreds of computers, in addition to the Tor nodes, that were also seized.

Tor executive director, Shava Nerad, expects all the computers to be returned to the server operators, none of whom have been charged with any crime, after the servers have been cleared from any involvement in the sting. However, Nerad also cautioned, "I don't believe German police have a deep understanding of how an anonymizing system works and none of these routers have logs." According to one of the Tor operators whose server was confiscated, no criminal charge has yet been filed against him.

All efforts are being made by the Tor community to preserve the privacy and civil liberties of all involved, but according to Nerad the situation is not so dire as has been reported elsewhere in the blogosphere. Civil rights advocates and cypherpunks claim that child pornography has become a carte blanche rationale for police suppression of disruptive technologies protecting privacy.

Laws circumscribing online privacy rights in the EU are more strict than in the US. PRIME, the EU's Privacy and Identity Management for Europe project, says: "The concept of a user-controlled identity management system implements the EU Directives 95/46/EC and 2002/58/EC, whose purpose is to safeguard individuals' fundamental rights and freedom, including the right to privacy. The technology will enable PRIME platforms to comply with European legislation. The platform applies the EU Directive's data protection principles. It supports and facilitates anonymity and pseudonymity to minimize the processing of personal information, whenever possible."


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