Facebook Officially Adds Tor Functionality

Facebook says Tor users can access the network without the loss of cryptographic protections, but the move has plenty of critics.


Facebook isn’t exactly known for robust security protocols or its ability to offer privacy to its users. However, in what some are considering a bizarre and possibly pointless move, Facebook is now offering the ability to use its service through the Tor Network.

Facebook security engineer Alec Muffet writes in an official post:

Facebook’s onion address provides a way to access Facebook through Tor without losing the cryptographic protections provided by the Tor cloud. The idea is that the Facebook onion address connects you to Facebook’s Core WWW Infrastructure… It reflects one benefit of accessing Facebook this way: that it provides end-to-end communication, from your browser directly into a Facebook datacenter.

This move could create opportunities to access Facebook in certain countries that ban it, since the Tor network anonymizes user location data. Despite some setbacks, there is an increased interest in Tor and an endorsement from the biggest social network online could draw even more attention.

However, many are critical of this move. “So yes, you can now directly access Facebook anonymously and securely, as long what you’re actually doing on Facebook can be closely monitored and moderated, and you self-identify with your real name,” writes Jack Smith IV, a tech reporter for BetaBeat.

PandoDaily staff writer Nathaniel Mott notes that Facebook’s primary purpose “is sharing information with other people. It asks them what’s on their mind. What they’re doing. Who they’re with. It encourages people to post status updates and photographs and comments.” Anonymizing the transfer of that information doesn’t do a lot to secure anyone’s privacy.

Maybe this effort will be successful, maybe it won’t. What’s clear is that everyone is interested in better security, even monoliths like Facebook. Users are striving for better security, and social networks are pushing back against government intrusion, so maybe we’re not far away from a social media security golden age.