NY Review – In the Depths of the Net
I had a friend once who completely freaked out over this. She thought it was out to kill her – and extreme measures (by the NHS, perhaps) were appropriate in order to save her life.
Here is what this article says:
To reach a dark-Net address, one must log onto one of the small number of Web browsers that conceal both identity and location, the most popular of which is called Tor. Developed by the United States Naval Research Laboratory to provide a safe way for dissidents in repressive regimes to communicate online, Tor continues to be funded in part by the US government through the National Science Foundation, as well as by a number of civil liberties organizations. Built on top of the Firefox Web browser, anyone, anywhere, can download the Tor browser and use it to navigate the entire Internet—the surface, the deep, and the dark Web—and do so leaving no trace. As Andrew Lewman, the executive director of the Tor Project, described it to the BBC last year:
The Tor Network is a network of about 6,000 relays, which are servers spread around 89 countries or so. And what we do is relay your traffic through three of these relays in sort of a random order, so that where you are in the world is different to where you appear to come from. So you know you are sitting here in the UK, you start up the Tor browser. You could pop out from Japan, Argentina, the United States.
In addition to the Tor browser, Tor also runs something called Tor Hidden Services, which essentially scrambles the address of a website, to make it undetectable. To connect to a hidden service, users are sent to a “rendezvous” point somewhere else on the Internet, and in so doing neither they, nor the site they are seeking, knows the other’s network identity. This works fine when the user knows how to direct the computer to the site with which to rendezvous, but given the proliferation of sites using Tor Hidden Services—Bartlett estimates that there are 40,000–60,000 of them—their fluidity, and their typically obscure addresses containing digits and letters, they can be hard to find.
This is technical, but easy enough for anyone determined to buy illegal drugs online to use. Drugs, any drugs, should be sold openly online – which would make it easier to track them, and subject their users to appropriate restrictions – such as driving while under their influence – as is done now with Alcohol – another dangerous drug that kills millions.
I would also favor updating the Internet to make anonymous usage illegal. But many people would scream bloody-murder about this – as curtailing their liberties!