The notorious Dark Web - long considered a haven for criminals and drug dealers - has gained one more upstanding member: The non-profit news organisation ProPublica.
ProPublica, has became the first known major media outlet to launch a version of its site that runs as a “hidden service” on the Tor network, the anonymity system that powers the thousands of untraceable websites that are sometimes known as the darknet or dark web.
ProPublica says that the move is designed to offer the best possible privacy protections for its visitors seeking to read the site’s news with their anonymity fully intact. Unlike mere SSL encryption, which hides the content of the site a web visitor is accessing, the Tor hidden service would ensure that even the fact that the reader visited ProPublica’s website would be hidden from an eavesdropper or Internet service provider.
“Everyone should have the ability to decide what types of metadata they leave behind,” says Mike Tigas, ProPublica’s developer who worked on the Tor hidden service. “We don’t want anyone to know that you came to us or what you read.”
Tigas first began considering launching a hidden service last year when the news site was working on a report about Chinese online censorship and wanted to make sure the reporting was itself safe to visit for Chinese readers.
ProPublica’s Tigas says he hopes the news site’s hidden service will serve as a model for other media companies who want to protect users’ privacy, and maybe improve the dark web’s controversial reputation, too.
“Personally I hope other people see that there are uses for hidden services that aren’t just hosting illegal sites,” he said. “Having good examples of sites like ProPublica and Securedrop using hidden services shows that these things aren’t just for criminals.”
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