Op-Ed: In defense of Tor routers

A recent Ars Technica Op-Ed post by Nicholas Weaver took a harsh view on Tor routers, calling their basic premise flawed. We acknowledge that Tor routers are not a privacy silver bullet; we’ve been vocal about the need for people to use privacy add-ons with their web browsers. But I feel Weaver's article was one-sided and overstated the case against Tor routers; many of the arguments he made against them could be applied to VPNs as well.

Some of Weaver's points of contention were:

  • If you want protection from your ISP, you should use a VPN;
  • A personal VPN hosted on Amazon EC2 is a reasonable choice;
  • VPN providers offer “better performance and equal privacy”;
  • Many Tor exit nodes are malicious (implying that some VPN providers aren’t);
  • Browser fingerprinting can break the anonymity of Tor without the Tor Browser Bundle; and
  • Tor router makers are money-grabbing scumbags.

I'll address each of these in turn; some of them are good points, others not as much. I may be biased because we make a Tor router, and I think we’ve made a pretty good device. But I’ve tried to be as fair as I can here and acknowledge the limits of Tor routers.

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