Tor Servers Target of Porn Crackdown

The German public prosecutor's office raided seven ISPs late last week in an attempt to crack down on child pornography. Ten servers were seized, all of which were running a program called Tor, distributed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation and billed as a way to protect user privacy by anonymizing Internet traffic.

Services that anonymize traffic have been around for a long time, first becoming popular as a way to download and post to Usnet newsgroups without revealing one's identity. However, with anonymizing comes certain risks: some users could be involved in illegal activity, such as the trade of child pornography.

It is not clear whether the German government intends to press charges against the Tor operators, or return the seized servers. According to those that use the software, the seized computers may not do any good, as police are unlikely to find any usable evidence on the hard drives to further their cases.

Some are criticizing the move as a way to scare server operators into not using the program, and at least one of the operators has begun to sound the alarm to other Tor users across the country. Another operator who has blogged about the incident feared that the move signaled the end of anonymizing services.

"I run TOR to get a certain level of privacy. Staying anonymous is no crime. I want my privacy," IT engineer and TOR operator Alexander Jansen said in his personal Web log. "This situation is disturbing, really disturbing ... the last thing I want to experience is the police kicking down my door, seizing my computer."

The EFF had not publicly commented on the situation as of press time.

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