Law Enforcement Raids Another Tor Exit Node Because It Still Believes An IP Address Is A Person
from the TASE-THAT-ROUTER dept
An IP address is not a person, even less so if said IP address traces back to a Tor exit relay. But that’s not going to stop the “authorities” from subjecting people with no knowledge at all of alleged criminal activity from being subjected to raids and searches.
It happened in Austria. Local police seized a bunch of computer equipment from a residence hosting a Tor exit node. ICE — boldly moving forward with nothing more than an IP address — seized six hard drives from Nolan King, who was also running a Tor exit relay.
Those more familiar with Tor suggested ICE’s “upon information and belief” affidavit statements should probably include at least a little “information” and recommended law enforcement check publicly-available lists of Tor exit nodes before conducting raids based on IP addresses. ICE, however, vowed to keep making this same mistake, no matter what information was brought to its attention.
ICE wasn’t involved in the latest raid predicated on nothing more than an IP address — at least not directly. This search/seizure was performed by Seattle PD conducting a child porn investigation. Sure enough, investigators had traced the activity back to an IP address, which was all the probable cause it needed to show up at privacy activist David Robinson’s home at 6 a.m. and demand access to his computers.
“They were there because I run a Tor exit relay,” he says. Tor (which stands for The Onion Router) is a system that allows people to surf the Internet anonymously. It’s sometimes referred to as the “dark Web,” and it relies on Internet connections provided by volunteers like Robinson.
Robinson said the Seattle PD “should have known” he couldn’t “see” the traffic passing through his node and that relay was little more than a “post office:” something anyone can use, even criminals, to send and receive information.
Considering he’s depicted as a “prominent privacy activist,” Robinson “should have known” a few things himself. This is not the correct response to a 6 a.m. visit by misguided police officers.
[W]hen Seattle police showed up at David Robinson’s home shortly after 6 a.m. last Wednesday, he figured he had little choice but to let them in and hand over all his computer passwords.
That’s no way to handle the police. Of course, they did present Robinson with a bad/worse proposition.
Instead of impounding all of Robinson’s computers, which the warrant would have allowed, they offered to search them on the premises as long as he consented to turning over his passwords. He did, and they let him keep his machines after they scanned them.
On-site imaging: now a thing thanks to extremely cheap, portable storage. Still, that’s not much comfort to Robinson, who no longer trusts his computers.
Given his early morning wake-up call last week and the fact that he may now have to get rid of his computers because he can’t be sure what the police did to them while he was being questioned outside his apartment, Robinson says he may have to reassess whether it’s practical for him to [continue running Tor relays].
It would be a lot more practical if law enforcement didn’t assume “IP address” = “smoking gun.” It also would help if people — including politicians — didn’t assume just because something’s not visible, it must be criminal. As has been pointed out before, Tor Project publishes a list of publicly-available exit relays and anyone can access that list — even law enforcement. Courts have declared, on multiple occasions, that an IP address is not a person. I guess those logical conclusions have yet to trickle down to law enforcement level.