The High Tech Society

How to Protect Your Privacy Online: What is the Tor Browser and Should You Use It?


How to Protect Your Privacy Online: What is the Tor Browser and Should You Use It?

On April 6th, 2017, the President signed a Congressional Review Act (CRA) to remove a bill that prevented Internet Service Providers from using your data for advertising or selling it to advertising companies without asking you first.

In the wake of that legislation, many people are becoming concerned about their privacy online, and how their Internet usage will be used for commercial purposes. If you’re concerned, you can check our article on the subject here.

Tor is one way to protect your Internet browsing data to ensure that your ISP cannot sell it.

What is Tor?

Tor is a privacy network designed to protect user actions and identity on the web. While largely associated with less than savory activities by the general public through TV shows like House of Cards, Tor is regularly used by millions of individuals who want nothing more than a little extra privacy.

Tor is short for The Onion Router, and has its origins in U.S. Navy servers which were designed to enable the Navy to browse the Internet anonymously. Today, it’s a non-profit that serves that same purpose for everyday people.

How Does It Work? – While Tor consists of a variety of tools, we are recommending that you use the Tor browser if you want to protect your privacy online. The browser uses a technique known as rerouting, because the browser essentially routes your Internet usage through servers hosted around the world, making it more difficult to determine where the original signal came from.

In non-technical terms, it’s a bit like when you bounce light off of a mirror. The light appears to come from a new source, even though it’s really just being reflected. When Tor redirects your signal through another server, the signal appears to becoming from that server. However, just like with light, a dedicated person can still go back and see where that signal comes from, it just takes significantly more work and more technical experience.

Tor also encrypts your traffic, making it more difficult to follow your signal.

Using Tor

To use Tor, all you have to do is download the Tor Browser. It’s completely free, and so long as you have an okay grasp of technology, you can set it up on your own fairly quickly.

All you have to do is type into the Tor Browser just like you would with any other browser, and your Internet will Work. Tor’s browser is based on Mozilla Firefox, which means that if you’re familiar with Firefox, you’ll already know your way around Tor.

However, Tor will slow your Internet down. Tor encrypts all of your data and bounces it around the world before bringing it back to you. This means that it can slow your browsing experience.

Why Use Tor?

Tor hides your IP, what you are looking up, and who is doing the searches. This is great if you want to protect your privacy from your ISP, advertisers, search engines like Google, or Facebook – all of which use your browsing data to deliver tailored ads. While Tor is often used to get around censorship rules, to access journalism sources in censored countries, and sometimes to break the law (there are illegal websites and places like The Silk Road on Tor), it is also very easily used for very legal and commonplace anonymous web use.

What to Be Aware Of

Tor does not protect your Internet usage, it simply makes you anonymous. You will still be vulnerable to hacks, attacks, and malware, so you should still take steps to protect your computer as much as possible.

It’s also a good idea to be aware of the fact that the Tor Browser is not censored, and many of the protections that exist on Google and Bing (such as preventing you from seeing hardcore pornography, bestiality, etc.), simply do not exist on Tor.

In short, Tor will help you to stay anonymous by hiding your Internet traffic from your ISP and from watchers like Big Brother, but it won’t keep you safe. If you’re truly concerned about how much of your browsing data your ISP can see, Tor may be a great solution for you. If so, click through to the next page to learn how to set Tor up on your computer.