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New Hampshire Legislator Introduces Bill Protecting Libraries' Right To Run Tor Relays

from the privacy-shouldn't-be-considered-inherently-suspicious dept

A small town library in New Hampshire that went to war with the DHS over a Tor relay has become the unlikely impetus for new legislation aimed at protecting public libraries from government overreach.

New Hampshire state legislators have introduced a new bill that allows public libraries to run privacy software like Tor.

The bill, crafted by State Rep. Keith Ammon (R) and sponsored by six other lawmakers, emphasizes the role that encryption and privacy tools will play in upholding the long tradition of privacy in public libraries.

“Public libraries … have upheld and protected patron privacy as one of their core values since 1939,” the bill reads. “In a library (physical or virtual), the right to privacy is the right to open inquiry without having the subject of one’s interest examined or scrutinized by others.”

Libraries have occasionally been the frontline for privacy skirmishes. “Warrant canaries” are a library creation. In the case of the Kilton Public Library, the DHS stepped in and demanded the Tor relay it was running for use by patrons be shut down. The library fought back, eventually forcing the DHS to back down.

To prevent this sort of thing from happening again, Ammon’s bill would grant libraries the right to run Tor relays and other software to protect users’ anonymity.

Public libraries may allow the installation and use of cryptographic privacy platforms on public library computers for library patrons use. Cryptographic privacy software shall include Tor or other privacy software that encrypts user’s information to protect it from surveillance or collection. Public libraries may also support infrastructure for cryptographic software that helps to promote a free and open Internet, such as running Tor relays. Public libraries shall not give records relative to use of cryptographic privacy software to a government agency without first providing written notice to the person in question.

This is likely to run into law enforcement opposition, even though there have been very few prosecutions linked to abuse of public library computers.

The Library Freedom Project continues to push ahead with its plan to install Tor exit relays in as many public libraries as possible. Despite the DHS no longer demanding relays be shut down and begrudgingly accepting the fact that running a relay is not an illegal act — nor even a reasonably suspicious one — the agency still insists Tor is mostly just there to cover up criminal activity.

The use of a Tor browser is not, in and of itself, illegal. There are legitimate purposes for its use. Originally designed, implemented and deployed by [the] United States Naval Research Laboratory, Tor affords users a way to share information over public networks without compromising their privacy. However, the protections that Tor offers can be attractive to criminal enterprises or actors and HSI will continue to pursue those individuals who seek to use the anonymizing technology to further their illicit activity.

In fact, as Ars Technica’s Cyrus Farivar pointed out on Twitter, the DHS is still holding onto some bitterness from being shouted down by a tiny public library.

Emails related to the DHS’s shutdown on the relay contained this derisive statement about Alison Macrina — one of the leaders of the “Tor relay in every library” project:

Just terrific…… that kid seems to be thinking an inch past the end of her nose

This isn’t likely to be the end of government efforts to shut down the use of encryption/anonymization software by publicly-accessible entities. But, if the legislation passes intact, future battles will be fought somewhere other than New Hampshire.

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Comments on “New Hampshire Legislator Introduces Bill Protecting Libraries' Right To Run Tor Relays”

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That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

“Just terrific…… that kid seems to be thinking an inch past the end of her nose”

Perhaps they could take a lesson from her.
Rather than looking down the road at some giant picture of a possible outcome, look at the first steps you are taking.

Much of the policy & plotting seems to be based on the ends will always justify the means… pity that to get to those ends one has to erode everything you claim to be protecting for us.

Anonymous Coward says:

Cut off my nose...

Just terrific…… that kid seems to be thinking an inch past the end of her nose

It seems that the Special Agent that made this comment is VERY representative of all of the Three Letter Agencies where they’d rather cut off their nose to spite their face… Since they apparently can’t see past the end of their nose.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re:

No they didn’t.

They expressed concern, but it’s a pretty severe overstatement to say they “demanded” the Tor relay be shut down. The original story doesn’t even make that claim, so it’s not clear why Tim wrote that here.


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