Will the Tor Messenger be the Next Big Thing in Private IM?

By Kimberlee Morrison Comment

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The Tor Network has caused a lot of controversy since it launched in 2002. The service has provided anonymity for domestic violence survivors, and allowed recently convicted Ross Ulbricht to operate the Silk Road — a huge drug marketplace. Now a service called Tor Messenger hopes to bring anonymous chat and social networking to users, while bypassing the need to visit the Dark Web itself.

Tor Messenger has been in development for a year, and is currently in an alpha testing phase. According to Tor Project sources, the messenger service was originally developed to enable “people in countries where communication for the purpose of activism is met with intimidation, violence, and prosecution will be able to avoid the scrutiny of criminal cartels, corrupt officials, and authoritarian governments.”

However, the current alpha can be paired with Facebook chat, Google Talk, Yahoo Messenger, Twitter, and IRC. Daily Dot contributor Patrick Howell O’Neill notes that this integration makes the service much more desirable to the less technically minded user.

This key feature means that users don’t have to choose between privacy and friends. Instead, you can continue to use your favorite social networks simply with the added bonus of extra privacy. That makes wide adoption a much easier sell.

Other features include automatic encryption, a dedicated connection to the Tor Network without the need to use a browser, and chat logs are disabled by default to prevent the program from collecting data from users unnecessarily.

Tor Messenger is still buggy, and not ready for the security audits it needs to be declared secure for public use, but that’s why it’s in alpha and won’t be ready for a full launch until later this year.

Most important is the connection to existing IM systems. Soon users will be able to access all sorts of privacy tools, particularly for messaging. If those tools integrate seamlessly into the regular internet experience, they’re more likely to provide better protection for the average internet user.

When encryption and privacy are the default, it makes secure and private internet use accessible to everyone, and online privacy doesn’t have to mean isolation.

Top image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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