Dreaming of a Tor Button for Firefox

By Adam Clark Estes on at

It's no secret that everybody's thinking about privacy and cyber security more since the world was pummelled with the unsettling, spy-novel truths of the Snowden revelations. Now, companies are starting to seize onto the zeitgeist by building more secure tools for the internet. And it sounds like Tor will be at the front of that line.

The Tor anonymity network is in talks with "several major tech companies" about integrating its technology into their software, according to the Daily Dot. One of those companies, the Daily Dot's Patrick Howell O'Neill, is Firefox, and that integration might come in the form of a Tor button that would enable anonymous browsing for hundreds of millions of people. Again, it's unclear if this major tech company is indeed Firefox, but Tor executive director Andrew Lewman offered some hints.

"They very much like Tor Browser and would like to ship it to their customer base," said Lewman. "Their product is 10-20 per cent of the global market, this is of roughly 2.8 billion global internet users." Lewman added, "[The tech companies are] willing to entertain offering their resources to help us solve the scalability challenges of handling hundreds of millions of users and relays on Tor."

This sounds like a great idea! Indeed, Firefox does have between 10 and 20 per cent of the global browser market, and Mozilla, the non-profit that builds the open source browser, is certainly interested in issues like privacy and security. Last year, Mozilla launched Lightbeam as an add-on that helps users visualise who's collecting data from them. A similar add-on that offers increased privacy or even total anonymity makes perfect sense. The Daily Dot calls it an "easy Tor button". We call it genius.

But even if it's not Firefox, it would be a smart move for any browser to take advantage of Tor's anonymity network. Easy integration into a popular browser would not only offer better privacy for millions; it would also encourage more people to think about cyber security. We already saw this earlier this year, when Apple announced that it would integrate DuckDuckGo, the anonymous search engine, into Safari for iOS 8. This is in addition to new, improved encryption in iOS 8.

If anything, turning Tor into a mainstream resource means that everybody enjoys better security. The Tor network works like a daisy chain that puts distance between the user and their destination, so that hackers or spies can't trace who's doing what on the internet. The longer that daisy chain gets, the harder it is to identify the person on the other end. Although as we learned a few months ago, it's not impossible to identify Tor users. Still, it's much harder.

So regardless of who's doing it, you should be excited by the idea of more Tor integration. It's a boon for your privacy and good for cyber security. And hopefully, it's just around the corner. [Daily Dot]