Anonymity, privacy and onions: How Tor might impact online retailers
With all the talk recently of the privacy and anonymity that Bitcoin affords its users, not much has been said about the anonymous network that is the backbone for what The Economist called "a dark corner of the web." Tor, which was previously an upper-case acronym for The Onion Router, is a combination of a special browser and a network of several thousand volunteer servers. By using the Tor browser, a user's Internet activity is routed and re-routed through machines on the network, making it supposedly impossible to retrace the "layers" of the path.
In the words of The Tor Project, "it prevents somebody watching your Internet connection from learning what sites you visit, it prevents the sites you visit from learning your physical location, and it lets you access sites which are blocked."
Tor is the method that customers used to access the online black market Silk Road, which was shut down by the FBI in October. Edward Snowden used Tor for all of his communications with The Guardian. Originally a product of the U.S. Navy, the technology is now a darling of the community advocating for better privacy rights.
So what do online retailers need to know about Tor? We posed these questions to Wendy Breakstone, Director of Marketing for Service Objects, a contact and data validation company. They recently published the white paper "Tor: The Good, The Bad, The Anonymous."