A simple rebuttal to @cguitton’s attempt to trash Tor Hidden Services /cc @torproject

There’s this paper by this guy at KCL.

That he’s posted it on Dropbox is both relevant and ironic.

In it, and in his Twitter feed, he argues essentially that Tor is OK-ish, but promotes anonymity – which he sees as “bad” – and Tor Hidden Services are intolerable and should “no longer be developed” because they promote so many bad things.

There are a bunch of arguments one could have about morality, privacy, anonymity, etc; but that’s playing the game in the expected fashion, leading to much postmodern posing and wastage of breath; so I will try a different, more Turingesque machine-based approach.

It’s very simple:

Strategically there is no communications difference between Tor, and Tor Hidden Services; what do I mean by this? I mean that both are simply forms of communication, and all forms of communication are functionally interchangable. To explain:

Tor mirrors the Internet and provides a connected graph of nodes which can communicate peer-to-peer; Tor Hidden Services provide a client-server model akin to the Web which runs atop the Internet.

If we are talking about access to data at rest – then we can provide such access in both models; with peer-to-peer networks we use Content-Based Addressing (a-la “Magnet Links” on Bittorrent) and on client-server networks we use Resource-Based Addressing (a-la URLs on the Web)

If we are talking about access to data in motion – then we can also provide such access in both models; with peer-to-peer communications (Skype, Bittorrent, E-Mail, USENET) – which may be synchronous (VoIP) or not (store-and-forward); and on client-server networks we historically just emulate the endpoints of peer-to-peer communication (E-mail becomes IMAP).

If data is not at rest or in motion, what is it?

So: there are two sorts of data and two communications mechanisms which are equivalent, merely using alternate addressing strategies* to distinguish them; with this understanding there is no way to choose one over another, nor reject one as “bad” while the other is “ok” or “good”.

Therefore, when one is dismissing a communications mechanism as bad, one is not talking about the medium, because all communications media are technically equivalent.

Instead, one is talking about the message. Therefore one is talking about censorship.

Welcome to your new role, Clement. Censor. QED.

Also, Dropbox, really? That’s not a proper webserver at all. If anything, it’s a peer-to-peer network with hierarchical backing storage and distributed web-emulating frontends.


* Another example:

  • Resource based addressing: “third shelf, fourth book along”
  • Content based addressing: “says it’s authored by Dickens, begins with ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…'”

Do you know what it is, yet?

2010: ThorpeGlen Maintains the Worlds Largest Social Network

Just in case it ever vanishes, a memory from archive.org; Thorpe Glen were a spinoff of a spinoff of BT and were subsequently bought-out – I forget by whom; their website lies idle; but be aware that they existed back then.

ThorpeGlen Maintains the Worlds Largest Social Network
Date published: 6th July, 2010
Technology innovation enables dynamic update of over 1.2 billion social profiles

ThorpeGlen Limited, world leaders in design and development of mass data analysis and storage solutions for the security sector, announced the creation of the worlds largest social network, with over 1.2 billion nodes in a live installation of the ThorpeGlen Monitoring Solution (TMS) measured in May 2010. A node on a social network is a person, piece of equipment or account, the network itself maps the linkages between nodes meaning that flow of funds through bank accounts, the movement of people and materials within a production facility or the way in which people communicate with each other by e-mail or telephone can be visualised and analysed.

Tony Chester, Chief Technology Officer at ThorpeGlen, explained that “the capabilities provided by the ThorpeGlen Monitoring Solution (TMS) enable our customers to quickly identify irregular behaviour or suspicious patterns within a social network thus providing a powerful tool in the prevention and detection of revenue loss and crime. Maintaining social profiles across a vast social network so that behaviour patterns can be analysed has proved to be a complex issue. Technology innovation has enabled us to dynamically update over 1.2 billion social profiles as the network continuously evolves.”

ThorpeGlen was granted the Queens Award for International Trade in 2009, building on this in 2010 ThorpeGlen’s leading edge technology has been recognised with the presentation of the Queens Award for Innovation.

HT PrivacyInternational

Secure Beneath the Watchful Eyes London Transport Poster

It’s mentioned in many places on the web, but it turns out that this fabulously Orwellian poster from several years ago:

Secure Beneath Watchful Eyes…is available as a hi-res PDF at WhatDoTheyKnow, the result of a FOIA.

My irony meter is rather strained by this discovery.