Internet anonymity programmes might be banned

A politician wants to ban the program Tor, which helps activists around the world stay anonymous but is also used by criminals to distribute illicit material

Programmes that allow internet users to cover up their online identities might be banned to help the police track down criminals.

The popular program Tor, for example, allows users to mask their IP address, making it almost impossible to trace their internet activity back to them.

Troels Ørting, the head of the European Cybercrime Centre at the EU policing agency Europol, told Politiken newspaper that Tor was increasingly being used by criminals to cover their tracks.

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Tor frustrating police
“The rising use of Tor among criminals […] is making it is so much harder for the police to do their job because it enables people to communicate and distribute information on the internet with almost 100 percent certainty of not being identified,” Ørting said

Socialdemokraterne's legal spokesperson, Trine Bramsen, said that she would be prepared to block Tor if the police demanded it.

“If the police see it as inhibiting their work, then it’s vital that we raise the issue politically to see if we can provide them with better tools, such as blocking Tor,” she told Politiken.

READ MORE: Internet surveillance laws under pressure

Threat to privacy
Tor’s users are not limited strictly to criminals, however, and activists in countries with heavy internet surveillance – such as Iran – use the programme to protect their identities online.

Surveillance expert Peter Lauritsen from the University of Aarhus argues that banning Tor in Denmark is akin to demanding that all internet users identify themselves online.

“Forcing people to identify themselves online is a big step away from internet privacy,” Lauritsen told The Copenhagen Post.

Exercise in futility
Both the justice minister, Morten Bødskov (S), and Konservative's legal spokesperson, Tom Behnke, told Politiken that they were open to more internet surveillance.

But Lauritsen argues that shutting down Tor is not likely to have much effect on internet criminality.

“If it got shut down, another service would probably quickly shoot up. It’s an exercise in futility. I think the idea is based on a misunderstanding by politicians who think they can control and regulate the internet,” he said.