Open Buddha

Open Source Buddhism, Technology, and Geekery

It can be dangerous to run Tor


By Al Jigong Billings

Alex Janssen has posted a blog entry about how his home was raided by the German police because he runs a Tor node. The node was used by someone for a death threat (according to the police) and they raided Alex's home becaue of the threat. Of course, the odd thing is that the Tor node isn't hosted in his home but elsewhere.

Cops being cops, they didn't care about this and didn't know what Tor was. Alex describes the raid:

 I explained them that I was a Tor-operator and what Tor is about. I showed them the letters from the Feds from the earlier incident to proove that I’m not bullshitting them. However, the coppers weren’t not so much into Tech-stuff and told me that a forensic unit will care about all my equippment. They searched everything: My attic, my office, my car, they digged through my wifes underwear, they found my old chmistry books very interesting, the flak-vest I own which I use when I go to strange countries, they found the fertilizer which I use for my chilli-plants, my microcontroller-experiments looked like an IED to them: Basically, EVERYTHING was suspicious.

The end result of all of this is that Alex has had to hire a lawyer to defend himself. Charges seem to have been dropped but he's now been summoned to appear for questioning about something else. He states that he can't live with this kind of situation (nor can he expect his wife to do so). Because of this, he is no longer going to be running a Tor node.

I had previously thought of trying to get Mozilla to support the hosting of some limited Tor traffic in our data center but given the content that can go through the Tor network, I find that it would be a hard sell. People do use Tor for unscrupulous things. That's the downside to having a system with a large degree of anonymity to it. I support what Tor is trying to do but I also recognize that running a Tor node has the possibility, depending on the legal climate, of opening oneself up to a certain amount of potential legal trouble.

This is worth noting for anyone considering being more actively involved with the Tor network.